There's a full Moon tonight and according to folklore it has a special name: the Full Wolf Moon. Arcing high through the winter sky, the bright orb turns night into a simulacrum of day and shines through freezing clouds, producing spectacular ice halos. Go outside, take a look, and try not to howl. www.spaceweather.com
VENUS AND MERCURY:
Tonight, when the sun goes down, step outside and face west. Mercury and Venus are converging in the sunset sky. Japanese photographer "Shiraishi" sends this picture from Kumagaya-shi, Saitama:
"Venus popped out of the twilight first, then Mercury followed as the sky darkened," says Shiraishi. "To capture the pair I used a Nikon COOLPIX P510 digital camera set at ISO 400 for a 1/6s exposure."
Sunset photographers should take note of those settings, because the Mercury-Venus show is just beginning. For the next week, the two planets will draw closer and closer together. On the date of closest approach, Jan. 10th, they will be a scant 0.7 degrees apart--three times closer than they are tonight! The width of your little finger held at arm's length is enough to eclipse the pair.
If you can't see Mercury with the naked eye alone, you might be looking too soon after sunset. Wait a while for the twilight to deepen. Or if you have binoculars, aim them at Venus to reel in Mercury. Once you find Mercury, you might be surprised at how bright it appears.
© The Independent, UK : A green-glowing comet will reach its closest position to Earth on January 7.
The comet Lovejoy is set to light up the skies and excite many a stargazer over the first week of the New Year as it reaches its closest point to Earth. The comet, formerly known as C/2014 Q2, is named after amateur Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy and was discovered in August.
The comet has been growing more visible in recent weeks to those living in the Southern Hempishere and Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the comet will reach its nearest position to Earth on January 7, a distance of about 70.2 million kilometres away. Thus, the green-glowing comet will be visible to those in the Northern Hemisphere.