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Space station expected to make a brilliant pass

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Bishop Museum is open on New Year’s Day, but will be closed on New Year’s Eve as it is each Tuesday.


There is a brilliant pass of the International Space Station (ISS) on Jan. 6, around 6:40 a.m. At its brightest during this pass, the space station will shine at minus 3.4 magnitude, several times brighter than even Jupiter.

Look for the space station to appear low in the southwest. When it first appears, it will look as bright as a very bright star, at minus 0.4 magnitude. It will rise very high, appearing almost overhead by 6:42 a.m. By the time the space station is overhead, it will hit that maximum brightness of minus 3.4 magnitude. It will then sink into the northeast, vanishing around 6:45 a.m.

The station will appear as a steady light moving slowly against the starry background.

One warning about satellite passes: It’s always a good idea to check the pass on the day of the satellite’s appearance, to make sure the times are still correct. This is especially important for the International Space Station, since there are sometimes adjustments in its orbit that will change the timing of its appearance.

To check it, go to Go to "configuration" and select Hono­lulu (or other locations around the islands) "from database." It will then let you select the space station ("ISS") and other satellites to see when they’ll appear over your area.


Jupiter rises in the east around dusk, is in the top of the sky around midnight, and sets around dawn in the west. Jupiter is in opposition on Jan. 5, when there is pretty much a straight line between the sun, earth and Jupiter.

Jupiter shines at minus 2.7 magnitude against the stars of Gemini.

In early January, look for Jupiter just rising in the east as it gets fully dark around 6:30 p.m. It will be almost exactly overhead around 1 a.m. and will set at daybreak in the west. Midmonth, look for Jupiter one-third of the way up in the east at dusk, overhead at midnight, and down in the west at 6:30 a.m. By the end of January, Jupiter is about halfway up in the east at dusk, crosses the top of the sky about 10:40 p.m. and sets about 5:15 a.m.

Look for a very striking gathering of the full moon and Jupiter on the night of Jan. 14-15.

On Jan. 1 Venus still shines brilliantly in the west at sunset, at minus 4.1 magnitude, emerging from twilight at 6:30 p.m. and setting at 7:10 p.m. Every evening in those first few days of January Venus will be a little lower at dusk.

By Jan. 6, it barely appears out of the sunset light at 6:30 p.m. before it sets at 6:40 p.m. On Jan. 11, now completely lost in the sun’s light, Venus will pass between the Earth and the sun. During such "inferior conjunctions" we lose Venus for only a short period.

Being in between Earth and the sun, Venus is pretty close to earth and seems to move very quickly. Less than two weeks after it vanishes, Venus will re-emerge as a morning "star," rising around Jan. 17 at 6:15 a.m. and is about the width of three fingers above the horizon at daybreak.

By the end of the month, Venus comes up around 5 a.m. and is about two palms’ width above the horizon as day breaks.

Saturn rises in the east at 3:30 a.m. at the start of January and is about a third of the way up in the east at dawn. By the end of the month, it rises just after 1:30 a.m. and is well over halfway up in the east at daybreak. Saturn shines in front of the faint stars of Libra; with Saturn shining at 0.6, the ringed planet is two magnitudes brighter than any of the stars of Libra. On the night of Jan. 24-25, look for a very close pass of Saturn and the waning crescent moon; the moon will be less than 2 degrees below Saturn.

By Jan. 15, look for Mercury just above where the suns set; it emerges from dusk around 6:30 p.m. and sets by 7 p.m. Mercury will be a little higher each dusk for the rest of the month; look for it at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 about 10 degrees above the horizon, setting at 7:40 p.m. That same night, look for the very, very slender crescent moon just to the right of Mercury. The planet shines at minus 0.5 at the end of the month.

Mars rises in the east at 12:30 a.m. at the start of January and by 11:30 p.m. at the end. Look for the planet about two-thirds of the way up in the south at dawn. Over the course of the month the planet slowly brightens, from 0.8 on Jan. 1 to 0.25 at the end. Heading into late winter and early spring, Mars, after shining feebly for months, will become striking in its brightness, maxing out at minus 1.48 in early April.


The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the morning of Jan. 3 between 12:01 a.m. and dawn looking east. The peak occurs around 3 a.m. The Quadrantids tend to be bright, and the lack of any lunar interference this year makes for promising meteor hunting.


Mike Shanahan is director of Education, Exhibits and Planetarium. For more information, go to

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