Having brushed by bright star Arcturus on 1 January, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) continues its trek through the constellations of the far north. Now a circumpolar object for the British Isles, in the early hours of 17 January it lies between famous double star Mizar (ζ Ursae Majoris) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), virtually overhead in the UK.
The first major annual meteor shower is the Quadrantids that is active from 1 to 6 January. While it is a display that can rival the August Perseids or the December Geminids at its best, most of the peak activity occurs within a six-hour window centred on a short, sharp maximum that is predicted to fall on the UK morning of Monday, 4 January 2016.
Discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey, C/2013 US10 is an Oort Cloud comet making its first foray into the inner solar system. Currently dashing northward through the constellation Boötes, Comet Catalina passes within ½ degree of Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern sky, on the morning of 1 January 2016.
Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) is currently a morning object in Virgo low in the southeast before dawn twilight for UK observers. The comet has a photogenic close encounter with Venus and the waning crescent Moon on the mornings of 7—8 December, then rapidly heads north through the constellation Boötes for a closer brush with Arcturus on New Year’s Day.
Markarian 820, also known as Mrk 820, LEDA 52404 or IRAS F14379+3142, is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Boötes, about 300 million light-years from Earth. Galaxies like this one are in the transition zone between ellipticals and spirals and lie right where the fork divides in American astronomer Edwin Hubble’s classification scheme of galaxies from 1926.