To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel
Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next. Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed.
January would not be so exciting if it weren’t for the two times we can see a close encounter between the Moon, Venus, and Mars. Also visible this month are Jupiter, Saturn, and maybe Mercury.
PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye
Planets you can see around Sunset – Venus (SW), Mars (SW)
Planets you can see throughout the night – None
Planets you can see in the Morning – Jupiter (S), Saturn (SE), Mercury (SE)
Mercury – Best bet is to look SE after 6:30am but before sunrise, starting on the 10th. Bring some binoculars, as it will only be about 10˚ above the horizon, and down and to the left of Saturn.
Venus – Look SW after sunset, and Venus will be about 30˚ above the horizon, very bright, and will set by 8:30pm. If you have a telescope, check out how it looks like a half moon.
Mars – Look SW after sunset and find Venus. Mars will be the ruddy red object up and to the left of bright brilliant Venus. In the beginning of the month Mars will be about a fist-width away (10˚) from Venus, and get to about 5˚ away by the end of the month.
Saturn – Look SE in the mornings before sunrise. In the beginning of the month, it will only be about 10˚ above the horizon, but by the end of the month it will be about 20˚ above the horizon, much brighter than anything else around it.
Jupiter – Catch Jupiter in the eastern sky in the morning after 1:30am in the beginning of the month, and midnight at the end of the month. Just look for the very bright object low in the East if you’re staying up late, or look to the South, halfway up the sky if you’re getting up early in the morning.
1st–3rd – Close Encounter – Moon, Venus, Mars – Look to the SW between 5pm and 7:30pm and you can catch a thin crescent Moon close and to the right of bright Venus on the 1st, in between Venus and Mars on the 2nd, and above Mars on the 3rd.
First Quarter Moon – 5th (Visible until midnight)
Full Moon – 12th (Visible all night)
Last Quarter Moon – 19th (Visible from midnight into the morning)
19th – Close Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look SE after 12:30am and before sunrise (7:23am). Jupiter will be the very bright point only 2˚ away from the last quarter Moon.
24th – Close Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Look SE after 5am and before sunrise (7:19am). Saturn will be the very bright point only 3˚ down and to the right of the thin waning crescent Moon.
New Moon – 28th (darkest skies)
31st – Close Encounter – Moon, Venus, Mars – Look to the SW after sunset, but before 8:30pm and you can catch another thin crescent Moon near Mars and Venus. Venus will be 5˚ to the right of the Moon, with Mars 3˚ up and a little to the right.
CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb) Look straight up and you'll see...
After Sunset (sunset is around 5:00pm) – Perseus, Taurus, Auriga – Extra Challenge! Right in the middle of Perseus is an open cluster called Mel 20. If you take binoculars and look around Perseus, you’ll see plenty of stars, but right in the middle where Mel 20 is, there are a lot more than you can see anywhere else in Perseus, hence they call it a cluster of stars.
Between Sunset and Midnight – Auriga, Taurus, Gemini
Midnight – Gemini
Early Morning – Bootes
GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS:
Winter constellations: Orion is easy to spot as he is rising in the East around 7:30pm. You can use Orion to find many other winter constellations.
Using Orion: Find Orion by looking for the three stars in a row that make up Orion’s belt in the East after sunset. If you draw a line from the left (bottom) star to the right (top) star and keep going right about 20 degrees (about 2 fists at arm’s length) until you reach another very bright star, you will have reached the star Aldebaron in Taurus (the V). Follow that line a little more (about another fist) and you’ll find the Pleiades.
Draw a line from the right (top) star in Orion’s belt to the left (bottom) star, and keep going left about 20 degrees (2 fists again), you’ll come to the brightest star in the sky – Sirius – part of Canis Major.
Above these three constellations are Gemini and Auriga. The brightest stars in each of these constellations form a circle in the sky. Going clockwise - Aldebaron (Taurus) – Rigel (Orion – bottom right foot) – Sirius (Canis Major) – Procyon (Canis Minor) – Castor & Pollux (Gemini) – Capella (Auriga). It makes for great stargazing in the winter sky.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.