Bahram Mobasher, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside recently announced the discovery of a galaxy near the edge of the known universe that is churning out new stars at a fantastic rate. The galaxy, called GN-108036, is 12.9 billion light years distant which also represents the length of time it has taken light from it to reach Earth. This makes it only 750 million years younger than the universe itself that formed from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Thus we are seeing light from GN-108036 when the universe was only 5 percent of its present age. It is the brightest galaxy ever seen from such a great distance. Our own Milky Way is five times larger and 100 times more massive than GN-108036 but turns out new stars at a rate 30 times less than the more than 100 stars the latter churns out annually. Mobasher says that GN-108036 likely represents the ancestor of the more massive and evolved galaxies seen today.
Focus on the Planets
Mercury is low in the southeast just before sunrise but will be hard to spot in the glow of the Sun. On New Year’s Day, look to the southeast at 5:30 a.m. for Mercury with the bright star Antares to its upper right. Mercury will disappear by the end of the second week of the month.
Venus ushers in the new year blazing high in the southwest at sunset. Brighter than any other celestial object but the sun and moon, Venus is often mistaken for an airplane’s headlight.
Mars rises in the south shortly before midnight and stands at its highest around 4 a.m. It is still visible in the southwest as dawn begins to break. Watch for Mars on Jan. 26 when it is joined by a thin crescent Moon.
Jupiter is halfway up the southeast horizon as night falls. From Jan. 1-3 watch the Moon parade across the sky from right to left immediately above Jupiter.
Saturn rises above the eastern horizon on either side of midnight throughout January where it keeps company with Spica of the constellation Virgo. On Jan. 16, Saturn, Spica and the Moon form a triangle in the predawn southern sky.
Neptune in Aquarius and Uranus in Pisces are best found using the chart at SkyandTelescope.com/uranusneptune.
1. Sunrise, 7:13 a.m.; sunset, 4:05 p.m. Moon in first quarter, 1:15 a.m.
2. The moon is at apogee or farthest distance from Earth today.
4. This is the peak night for the Quadrantid meteor shower. The best time for viewing is between 3 a.m. when the Moon sets and dawn at about 6 a.m. Viewers can expect an hourly rate of 60-plus meteors but this has been far higher in the past. The shower originates out of Bootes the Herdsman.
5. The Earth is at perihelion or nearest approach to the sun. Aphelion, or farthest distance from the sun, occurs on July 5. So how is it so much warmer in July than in January?
9. Full moon, 2:31 a.m. The full moon of January is known as the wolf moon, the moon after yule, or simply the old moon.
13. Nothing special astronomically, however, Friday, Jan. 13 and all three Friday the 13ths that occur in 2012 are 13 weeks apart, according to Guy Ottewell making this a particularly bad year for all those who suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
16. Moon in last quarter, 4:08 a.m.
17. Moon at perigee or nearest approach to Earth today.
20. The sun enters Capricornus on the ecliptic and then, less than 10 hours later, enters the astrological sign of Aquarius.
23. New moon, 2:41 a.m.
31. Moon in first quarter, 11:11 p.m. Sunrise, 6:56 a.m.; sunset, 4:42 p.m.
Send astronomical queries to Clair Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or care of the Bangor Daily News, Style Desk, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402.