Welcome to 2011! Jupiter is still high in the sky at sunset as the new year begins, and it’s visible until around midnight. As always, there’s plenty to see – bands, spots, festoons, moons and their shadows.
And, of course, belts! It looks like Jupiter’s South Equatorial Band, which went missing earlier this year while Jupiter was behind the sun, is starting to come back. Reports have it appearing as a faint pink band – nothing like its usual darkness, but much darker than it was a few months ago. It should be interesting to watch the band continue to darken, as it presumably will, over the next few months as Jupiter closes with the sun.
Uranus and Neptune are also up in the evening sky, though not as high as one might like: Uranus sets around 10pm, while Neptune, a tougher catch anyway, is gone before 8pm.
That’s most of the planetary action for January evenings. Saturn rises a little before midnight, and the rest of the planets are only visible in the morning sky.
In Mars Rover news, NASA continues the effort to re-contact Spirit, who has been out of communication since last March. No word from the rover yet, but the rover drivers haven’t completely given up hope – it’s spring there and still warming up, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, the other rover, Opportunity, is up to 16 miles (26 kilometers) of total travel and still going strong, heading toward a 262-foot crater called Santa Maria. So the roving hasn’t stopped just because Spirit is stuck; her sister continues the Mars exploration.
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