The Visible Planets
Mercury makes a good appearance in our early evening sky in January. Look for Mercury near the planets Jupiter and Saturn, low in our southwestern sky after sunset, from January 6 to January 20. On January 10, Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury will form a small triangle of planets visible low in the southwest sky right after sunset. On January 23, Mercury reaches its furthest angular distance from the setting Sun of 19 degrees known as its greatest eastern elongation. Thus, January 23 provides one of the best nights this year to view Mercury.
Venus is found shining brilliantly very low in our southeastern sky before sunrise. Through the month, the planet continues to sink lower towards the southeastern horizon in the dawn’s early glow, becoming more difficult to see.
Mars appears as a reddish, fairly bright object, about halfway up in the southern sky at sunset. It has been dimming since its point of opposition back in October of 2020. Mars starts the month in the constellation of Pisces, the fish, but moves into the constellation of Aires, the ram, on January 4 and remains in that constellation for the rest of the month. On the evening of January 21, look for Mars to the upper right of the waxing gibbous Moon. On January 21, the planet Uranus will be just 1 ½ degrees to the southwest of Mars. Try to spot this faint blue distant world with binoculars or a telescope.
Jupiter is visible as the brightest object visible low in the southwestern sky after sunset during the first half of the month. It then disappears into the glare of the setting sun around the date of January 20 and will be in conjunction with the Sun on January 28. Jupiter will slowly reappear in our northeastern sky before dawn in the month of February.
Saturn is visible with some difficulty early in the month but soon disappears into the glare of the setting Sun around mid-month. It is at conjunction, in line of sight with the Sun, on January 23 and hence will not be visible for the rest of the month.
January 6 Last Quarter Moon
January 12 New Moon
January 20 First Quarter Moon
January 28 Full Moon
International Space Station (ISS) Observable Passes
Look for passes of the ISS in the evening sky after sunset from January 19 to February 5. The ISS will always be found moving from west to east in the sky for each pass abut the height above the horizon will vary from pass to pass. Exact times of these passages for your location can be found by visiting the website http://www.heavens-above.com or by using satellite tracking smart phone apps like Sputnik.
January 2 Earth at perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) 147,093,162 km
January 3 Quadrantid meteor shower peaks (Zenith hourly rate of 120 meteors)
January 9 Mercury is found near the planet Saturn low in our southwestern sky after sunset.
January 11 Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Edmonton Centre meeting
Virtual meeting through Zoom. Free for anyone to attend.
See http://www.edmontonrasc.com for more details.
January 20 The planets Mars and Uranus will be about 1.6 degrees apart in our evening sky.
A telescope will be required to view Uranus as it is not a naked-eye planet.
January 23 Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun (same line of sight as the Sun) and hence will not be visible in our sky.
January 24 Mercury will be at greatest elongation east (19 degrees) from the setting Sun.
January 25 Look for the waxing gibbous Moon near the open star cluster, M35, in the constellation of Gemini.
January 28 Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun (same light of sight as the Sun) and hence is not visible in our sky.