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Auroras and planets light up the sky


Andrew S. Fazekas
January 21, 2012 — Northern lights may be seen across Canadian night skies this weekend.


The moons position on the 26th
The moons position on the 26th

Skywatchers across Canada may get a chance to witness some Northern Lights in the coming days. A giant sunspot group produced a massive solar flare which has sent a cloud of charged particles directly towards Earth. Space weather forecasters say that it should arrive sometime on Saturday, January 21st, around 6:30 pm EST +/- 7 hours,and may produce geomagnetic storms (not guaranteed) across high latitudes, bringing with them aurora borealis displays.

The moons position on the 25th
The moons position on the 25th

Best chances to view these colourful sky shows is away from city lights, facing the northern horizon between local nightfall and midnight.

Planets will also be on display in both the evening and early morning skies over the remainder of the month. Facing the southwest skies at dawn, Mars will appear just below the constellation Leo, shining like a faint orange hued star. Look toards its left and Saturn appears paired with the star Spica - the brightest member of the Virgo constellation. While the two starlike objects may appear close together, its only an optical illusion as Saturn is 1.5 billion km away, while Spica is just over 260 light years from Earth.

Meanwhile skywatchers at dusk can oberve the bright star-like Venus shining high in the southwest and will be joined by a crescent Moon on January 25th and 26th, creating a striking cosmic pairing not to be missed.

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