January 2021 Skies

January 2021 Skies

The Moon this Month

(All times are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time)

Last quarter Moon:         8:37pm January 6th

New Moon:                        4:01pm January 13th

First Quarter:                     8:01am January 21st

Full Moon:                          6:16am January 29th

The crescent Moon will appear close to Jupiter and Mercury, low in the evening twilight sky on the evening of January 14th.

Planets in January

Mercury is now in the evening sky since late December. It is very low in the West about 40 minutes after sunset. It will reach its greatest elongation this month on January 24th when it will set about 1 hour after the Sun. It will then start its journey back towards the Sun to become a morning object in On January 14th you can see the very small one day old crescent Moon close to Mercury, but both will be hard to catch without a good western horizon as they will be in the bright twilight. This would be best seen with a pair of binoculars.

Venus continues to dazzle as the morning star. Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It rises in southern latitudes about 90 minutes before sunrise at the beginning of the month. By the end of the month, it will be rising only an hour prior to the Sun. It started the month in Ophiuchus and will be in Sagittarius from the 7th. If you are up to a challenge little dim dwarf planet will be very close to Venus on the morning of the 29th – a telescope challenge in the brightening morning sky. Check out Venus and the crescent Moon on the morning of January 14th. This is a great photo opportunity.

Venus and Crescent Moon close around 5am on January 14th

Mars starts the month in Pisces and moves into Aries from the 6th and is overhead from the start of the night in the northern sky. It stands out as with an orange/reddish glow and is the brightest object in its part of the sky. On the 21st you will have a chance to see Mars, Uranus and the first quarter Moon in a line. So, all 3 will be visible in the same field of a pair of binoculars.

Mars is moving further away from us and is getting smaller in the sky.

Sky on Evening of January 21st Uranus will be between Mars and the Quarter Moon.

Jupiter and Saturn are now becoming harder to see in the western twilight after their magnificent conjunction last month. Saturn will reach conjunction on the 24th and Jupiter on the 29th and from February will again be able to be seen in the early morning sky.

Uranus is in Aries and is visible in the early western evening sky this month. It is named after the god of the sky. Best chance to catch it in binoculars will be on the 21st when it sits nicely between Mars and the quarter Moon. Between the 18th and 23rd that you should be able to find it using Mars as a guide. Since the 2 planets will be only 2 degrees apart they should fall in the same binocular field. This gives you a great opportunity to see the elusive seventh planet.

Sky Views for January

Morning Sky on January 17 facing South and East

Evening sky facing East and South on January 17
Night Sky facing West on January 20 with Mars and the Moon close

Night Sky facing West on January 20 with Mars and the Moon close

Some binocular challenges for this month.

Grab your binoculars and if you have a star gazing app on your phone head outside and try for these objects in the evening sky.

M41 an open cluster also known as the Little Beehive Cluster is close the brightest star in the sky Sirius. It was known about as long as Aristotle in about 325 BC. It lies to the right and above Sirius,

Pleiades, Subaru of 7 Sisters are lower in the northern sky early in the evening and are a fun group of young stars to check out as well.

Looking east of the Pleiades you will see the V shape of the face of Taurus the bull with a nice bright red star called Aldebaran – look up at the 2 stars close together above that to find the Hyades cluster.

And finally check out the second star of the sword of Orion or handle of the Saucepan. This is the mighty Great Orion Nebula – with your binoculars you can see that the star is hazy and there are many more than just one star. 

Finally try using your smartphone on a steady surface to capture a photo of the ‘handle’ or sword stars in Orion and if you can get an exposure for about 10-30 secs you will capture some of the colour. A 25 – 30 second shot in a DSLR Camera will give you a lor more details as well.

Clear skies until next month! Stay up to date on my facebook page.

Donna the Astronomer

I am a keen astronomer lucky enough to live and work in Coonabarabran the Astronomy Capital of Australia! I am a ‘Drover’s Brat’ and discoverer of a couple of comets and asteroids. I operate Milroy Observatory and can show you how to best integrate dark sky experiences into your tourism, farm stay or AirBnB business.

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