Using the combined efforts of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers in Chile have discovered the faintest galaxy ever seen in the early universe. It dates back to just 400 million years after the Big Bang that took place some 13.8 billion years ago and lies at the edge of the current observable universe.
Called Tayna or “first born” it is about the size of the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy but is making stars 10 times faster. Tayna was spotted because it lies directly behind a massive galaxy the mass of a million billion suns that magnified its light through a process called gravitational lensing.
Dr. Leopoldo Infante, head of the research team that discovered Tayna, described its importance as, “We are able to study the properties of extremely faint objects formed not long after the Big Bang.”
Focus on the planets
Planet watchers will have to be early risers in January, as all the naked eye planets are in the morning sky, and that one eventually winds up there.
Mercury accomplishes the rare feat of appearing in the evening and morning sky during the same month. Mercury opens the month low in the southwest at dusk, where it will be very hard to observe setting less than an hour after the sun. It disappears after about a week to reappear at month’s end to the lower left of Venus.
Venus blazes in the southeast rising about two hours before the sun and is the brightest point of light in the morning sky.
Mars rises in the south shortly after the New Year is rung in just to the left of the bright star Spica where its ruddy hue contrasts nicely with the blue-white star.
Jupiter rises in the east about 10:30 p.m. as the month opens and two hours earlier by month’s end. A small telescope will reveal surface features such as two dark belts sandwiching a brighter zone while the four major moons will be easily seen in their dance around and across the face of the giant planet.
Saturn rises in the southeast about an hour behind Venus and the two rapidly close in on each other until, on Jan. 9, they have their closest pairing in 10 years.
Uranus is in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius as night falls. Look for the blue-green disk of Uranus and the blue-gray disk of Neptune with the aid of Sky & Telescope magazine website at skypub.com/urnep.
1 Sunrise, 7:13 a.m.; sunset, 4:05 p.m.
2 Last quarter moon, 12:30 a.m. The moon is at apogee, or farthest distance from the Earth, while the Earth is at perihelion, or closest approach to the sun.
3 Look to the south about 6:00 a.m. where the moon, Mars and Spica form a triangle about halfway up on the horizon.
4 Peak night for the Quadrantid meteor shower from the region of Bootes the Herdsman. Expect up to 120 meteors per hour about 4:00 a.m. A waxing crescent moon will present few difficulties.
9 Venus is extremely close to Saturn before dawn. This is the closest approach of the two planets in 10 years. Antares lies to the pair’s lower right. New moon, 8:31 p.m.
15 Moon at perigee or nearest approach to Earth.
16 First quarter moon, 6:26 p.m.
20 The sun enters Capricornus on the ecliptic while also entering the astrological sign of Aquarius.
23 Full moon, 8:46 p.m. The full moon of January is called the Wolf Moon and also is known as the Moon After Yule, or the Old Moon.
27 Look to the east about 10 p.m. where Jupiter sits just above the moon.
30 The moon is at apogee for the second time this month.
31 Sunrise, 6:56 a.m.; sunset, 4:42 p.m.
Send astronomical queries to Clair Wood at email@example.com or care of the Bangor Daily News, Features Desk, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402.