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January welcomes Jupiter and astronomers

Sunday - 1/5/2014, 5:33pm  ET

Jupiter_and_2_Moons.jpg
Jupiter and two of its moons. The "King of the Planets" was at its closest position to Earth Saturday and will be visible in the evening sky Sunday. (Courtesy Greg Redfern)

WASHINGTON - Here in the DMV, we are "enjoying" freezing rain while awaiting the dreaded "polar vortex" to bring us record setting low temps, I am sure, Monday night into Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, the solar system continues to move. Jupiter is at opposition Sunday, or directly opposite the sun, at 4 p.m. EST. The brightest object in the night sky besides the moon, the "King of the Planets" will rise in the east at sunset and be visible all night. Jupiter will dominate the night sky for months to come.

Jupiter is also at its closest approach to the Earth for 2014 (closest was 1-4-14 at 391 million miles) and will be a prime viewing target in telescopes and binoculars. In good binoculars, you can see the four main moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo. Galileo first observed these moons on January 7, 1610 and he noticed that they moved over a period of time.

You can tune in to watch Jupiter live today on the SLOOH network.

Star party

On a more down to Earth note, the American Astronomical Society is having its 223rd meeting at National Harbor starting Sunday and lasting until Thursday. More than 3,000 professional astronomers are expected to attend.

The public is invited to attend daily special sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that feature professional astronomers speaking about current topics. A star party is scheduled for Tuesday night at Gaylord pier from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

I spoke with AAS and if the skies are clear, the "show" will go on even with the bitter cold. So bundle up! You can get the latest updates at the AAS Facebook page.

There will be a number of press briefings and major astronomical news announcements during this meeting. I will be attending sessions and look forward to reporting back to WTOP readers on my experiences and what I learn.

If you are in the DMV, stay safe in the dangerous temps.

Follow my daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at skyguyinva@gmail.com.

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