Plenty to see in the new year

David RenekeGeraldton Guardian

Did you get a telescope for Christmas?

Lucky you. The new year sky is full of bright stars, prominent constellations and fascinating celestial sights.

Lots of budding astronomers get their start in January using telescopes they got for Christmas.

Many get hooked for life after viewing the wonders of the night sky through their first telescope, but some have had their initial enthusiasm for astronomy dampened, particularly if they do not know how to use it properly

You’ll probably be surprised to discover your most pleasing views with your new telescope will come at much lower power — that is using eyepieces of around 25mm.

Low power makes a telescope much more convenient to handle and if your telescope mount or tripod is a bit shaky, lower power will not magnify the shakes as much.

During early January, the Moon provides even the basic amateur a perfect target — just make sure you’re away from lights. If you’ve got a camera on your smartphone, hold it up close to the eyepiece, move it around till you see the Moon’s disc and click — you might get a neat photo out of it.

Go and find the familiar constellation we call the saucepan and find the middle “star” of the handle.

It’s not a star, but the famous Orion Nebula, a luminous, swirling cloud of gas and dust 1500 light years away where stars are being born.

This nebula is obvious in any telescope and always gives me a buzz, even after 40 years.

Despite its tremendous brilliance, Venus is a bit of a disappointment right now, appearing as a brilliant blob of light in the pre-dawn sky.

Jupiter is terrific during early January and shines brightly all by itself. Its four bright moons are a constantly changing target, even with binoculars.

The Quadrantids meteor shower will be visible from now until January 5.

It peaks overnight on January 2 with about 40 sightings per hour.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails