The Moon this Month
(All times are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time)
- New Moon: 5:34 am January 3rd
- First Quarter: 5:12 am January 10th
- Full Moon: 10:49am January 18th
- Last quarter Moon: 00:42am January 26th
At 9am on January 2nd the Moon will be at Perigee which is the closest it gets to the Earth each month. This month will be a mere 358,033km away. On the 14th at 7pm the Moon will be at apogee its furthest point from Earth this month at 405,805km.
Planets in January
Finding and observing the planets of the Solar System in the night sky isn’t as hard as you might think. You just need to know where to look.
When a planet is in a particularly favourable position in the evening or morning sky, it will look like a bright ‘star’, the most obvious point of light visible to the naked eye.
The other thing about spotting the planets in the night sky is that they can also be found along the ecliptic, which is the imaginary line that the Sun appears to traverse in the sky over the course of a day and the Moon by night. Since the major planets of the Solar System orbit the Sun in about the same plane, the ecliptic also marks the path of the planets.
Mercury is now back in the evening sky. It is very low in the West about 30 minutes after sunset. It will reach its greatest elongation this month on January 7th when it sets about 1 hour after the Sun. It is best seen in first half of January and will be near Venus on the 1st and near Saturn on the 13th when Mercury will be slightly higher in the sky. The slender crescent of the Moon will be above Mercury on the 4th. Mercury will be lost from view as it passes between Earth and the Sun on the 23rd and moves to the morning sky late in the month.
Venus will also be between us and the Sun this month (inferior conjunction) on the 9th and will reappear in the morning sky by January 19th
If you can catch it before it sets early this month then you will see the planet as a very slender crescent. Being thin and low in altitude, this crescent is susceptible to the unstable atmosphere you have to look through for objects close to the horizon, so plan to catch it as early as you can after sunset.
As ever, be safe when hunting for Venus and make sure the Sun is below the horizon before looking for it.
Mars is visible in the eastern dawn sky in the constellation of Ophiuchus during the first two-thirds of the month. It then moves into Sagittarius, crossing the star clouds of the galactic centre. From southeast mainland Australia there will be an occultation of Mars by the Moon visible during the dawn of January 1. Canberra and Melbourne will see the disappearance at around 30 minutes before sunrise, where Sydney at this time will see a near miss as it will pass very close to the limb of the Moon. Adelaide will get the best view of any capital city seeing the disappearance and reappearance around 70 and 40 minutes respectively before sunrise. The lunar crescent will be quite thin and low in the east being only 2 days from New Moon. On the 30th, the planet will be close to the almost full moon.
Jupiter is still visible in the early western evening sky in Aquarius. Its low altitude this month does not lend itself to visual observation or imaging. On the 6th the slender crescent of the 4-day old Moon appears just above the planet
Saturn is low in the western evening sky during the first half of the month. On the 13th, the planet will be close to Mercury, visible just 30 minutes after sunset. After this Saturn becomes too close to the Sun for observation, reappearing in the morning twilight in late February.
Uranus is in Aries and is visible in the early north-western evening sky. The planet spends the month within half a degree of the 6th magnitude star 29 Arietis. Since both are of similar brightness, the best way to distinguish them is the one that shows a greenish disc is Uranus. The planet ends four months of retrograde motion on the 19th and then resumes drifting eastward against the stellar background.
Neptune is visible at the beginning of the year in the early western evening sky. Situated in Aquarius, the planet moves into Pisces in May and back to Aquarius in August.