For the primary half of January, magnitude -0.7 Mercury might be seen within the southwestern sky after sundown. Within the first few days of the month, it will likely be poised to the higher left (or celestial southeast) of a lot brighter Venus. Mercury’s best elongation, 19 levels east of the Solar, will happen on January 7, every week earlier than its perihelion. It is a temporary and fairly good apparition for Northern Hemisphere observers, however a much less supreme one for southerners. The perfect viewing time round elongation might be 5:30 p.m. native time. Mercury will method Saturn till the pair closes to inside 3.4 levels of each other on January 12-13. After that, Mercury’s westerly retrograde movement will outpace Saturn of their race sunward. Mercury will quickly grow to be misplaced within the twilight after mid-month. Telescope views will reveal a waning section that decreases from 76-per-cent to a skinny crescent. In the meantime, the planet’s obvious disk measurement will swell from 6 arcseconds to almost 10 arcseconds. (All the time make sure that the Solar is totally under the horizon earlier than coaching optics on Mercury.) The very younger crescent Moon is perhaps noticed lower than 5 levels under (south of) Mercury on January 3. However the Moon might be extra simply seen on the next night, when it can sit 11 levels to Mercury’s higher left. Following inferior photo voltaic conjunction on January 26, Mercury will enter the east-southeastern pre-dawn sky, commencing a prolonged, however poor apparition for northerners.
The opening few days of January will discover Venus low within the west-southwestern sky after sundown, and quickly descending sunward. When Venus reaches inferior conjunction on January 8-9, our sister planet might be nearer than any planet has been to Earth in a century — a mere 0.266 Astronomical Items, 39.767 million kilometres or 133 light-minutes. Telescope views of the planet might be very dangerous whereas it’s that near the Solar. Skilled observers may glimpse Venus’ razor-thin crescent and its swollen obvious disk diameter of 63 arcseconds! Venus will spend all of January transferring retrograde westward by way of northern Sagittarius. When the planet re-appears within the east-southeastern pre-dawn sky a number of mornings after conjunction, it can quickly climb out of the morning twilight and steadily brighten. Venus will finish January at magnitude -4.8, and making ready to go a half-dozen levels to the north of Mars throughout early February. The outdated crescent Moon will share the pre-dawn sky with Venus on January 29 and 30.
Throughout January, Mars might be observable within the southeastern pre-dawn sky whereas it slowly climbs away from the Solar on its year-long journey to opposition in late December. On January 1, the ruddy, magnitude 1.53 planet will rise among the many stars of Ophiuchus after 5 a.m. native time — simply 5 levels northeast of its rival, the intense star Antares. Over the course of the month, Mars will develop in obvious diameter from 4 to 4.3 arcseconds and brighten slightly to magnitude 1.4. Mars’ easterly prograde movement will maintain it in place whereas the background stars migrate west. On January 20 the purple planet will go into the wealthy star fields of Sagittarius. Mars will go telescope-close to the globular cluster NGC 6235 on January 3, the planetary nebula IC 4634 on January 6, globular NGC 6287 on January 7, the Ghost of Mars Nebula (NGC 6369) on January 15, and the globular NGC 6401 on January 18. On January 26, Mars will go lower than 1.5 levels to the SSW of the Trifid Nebula (Messier 20) and the close by open star cluster Messier 21. That very same morning, the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) with its central star cluster NGC 6530 might be positioned simply 0.5 diploma to the south of Mars. Towards month’s finish, Mars will greet a lot brighter Venus, which is able to method from Mars’ higher left (or celestial northeast). On January 29, the slender crescent of the outdated Moon will shine a number of levels to the south of Mars, making a pleasant photograph alternative. The magnitude 7.6 asteroid designated (4) Vesta might be close by, too — about 6.5 levels to the east-northeast of Mars.
Our time for viewing Jupiter will conclude throughout January. In the course of the first half of the month the intense, magnitude -2.1 planet might be simply noticed in telescopes in early night because it strikes prograde eastward by way of central Aquarius within the southwestern sky. However Jupiter might be flirting with the night twilight by month’s finish — its angle from the Solar could have been diminished to solely 25 levels. Jupiter’s 4 Galilean moons will seem on both facet the planet in binoculars. In telescopes, the Nice Purple Spot will cross Jupiter’s disk each second or third night time. 13 instances fainter Saturn will shine 18 levels to the decrease proper (celestial west) of Jupiter, till the ringed planet disappears into the twilight in the direction of month-end. On January 5, the waxing crescent Moon will go 6 levels to the southwest of Jupiter.
Throughout early night for the primary week of January, Saturn might be observable within the west-southwestern sky because it strikes eastward among the many stars of central Capricornus. After mid-month, Saturn will grow to be more and more swamped by twilight. The ringed planet’s distance from Mercury, which might be sitting to its decrease proper (or celestial west), will lower to three.4 levels on January 12-13. After that encounter, Mercury’s westerly retrograde movement will outpace Saturn as they each swing sunward. The younger crescent Moon will shine 5 levels to Saturn’s left on January 4.
Magnitude 5.7 Uranus might be observable in binoculars and telescopes all night lengthy throughout January. Its small, blue-green dot might be transferring slowly retrograde westwards in southern Aries, 10.5 levels southeast of that constellation’s brightest stars, Hamal and Sheratan, and solely 5 levels from the medium-bright star Mu Ceti to its south. The planet will most seen when it climbs to its highest place within the southern sky at round 7 p.m. native time. From January 10 to 11, the intense, waxing gibbous Moon will hop previous Uranus.
The distant and blue-coloured planet Neptune might be observable within the southwestern sky in early night throughout January. The magnitude 7.9 planet might be touring very slowly eastward among the many stars of northeastern Aquarius. If the sky could be very darkish, Neptune will be seen in binoculars. To find it, discover the north-south grouping of 5 medium-bright stars Psi, Chi, and Phi Aquarii (or ψ, X, and φ Aqr). Neptune’s non-twinkling speck will sit 3 levels to the north-northeast of the highest star, Phi. Seen in a telescope, Neptune’s obvious disk measurement might be 2.25 arcseconds.
Chris Vaughan is a science author, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you may observe him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He may deliver his Digital Starlab moveable inflatable planetarium to your college or different daytime or night occasion. Contact him by way of AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe collectively.