Happy New Year! Below is an astronomy guide to celestial events happening in the night (and morning) sky during the month of January, 2017. Be sure to look for Orion, who dominates the winter sky this month.
All times are Eastern Standard Time, for the Northern Hemisphere:
January 2— On Monday evening, look to the southwest sky to see a slender crescent Moon flanked by two planets: to the Moon’s upper left is Mars; to its lower left glows Venus, stunning throughout January as it brightens from magnitude -4.3 to -4.6, remaining up for almost 4 hours after sunset (for observers at mid-northern latitudes).
January 4— Set your alarms early the morning of January 4th to view the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This is a strong shower, radiating from the constellation Boötes, The Herdsman, and can produce up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. Peak viewing at 3 am in North American and Europe.
January 4— Latest sunrise of 2017. The Earth reaches its closest point to the Sun for the year, known as perihelion.
January 5— First Quarter Moon at 2:47 p.m. In this phase, the Moon looks like a half-Moon in the sky. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing, on its way to full.
January 8 – Look to the east to see the waxing gibbous Moon, the bright reddish star Aldebaran, and the Pleiades star cluster. Aldebaran will be the brightest star near the Moon, the Pleiades cluster will be above it to the left. Binoculars make for best viewing. Aldebaran is the bright reddish eye of Taurus the Bull.
January 12 – Venus reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun and will be in view in the western evening sky.
January 12 — Full Wolf Moon at 6:34 a.m. In this phase, the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event, and appears full for three days.
To see how this full Moon got its name, watch this Farmers’ Almanac short video here:
January 13 – The nearly-full Moon is just 4 degrees from the Beehive Cluster.
January 14 – Around midnight, until dawn, look to the east to see the waning gibbous Moon just 1 degree from the star Regulus. Regulus is the Heart of the Lion — the brightest star in the constellation Leo.
January 19 — Last Quarter Moon, 5:13 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon: one-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon phase.
January 19 – Look to the east after midnight to see the last quarter (half Moon) team up with Jupiter and Spica to form a trio.
January 23 – Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of Gemini, the Twins are nearly overhead at around 11:30 p.m. local time.
January 24 – Before sunrise, look to the southeast to see the Moon pair up with Saturn (only 3º apart!).
January 25 – About 45 minutes before sunrise, look very low to the southeast horizon for a narrow sliver of the waning crescent Moon, only 36 hours from its New phase. About 5° to its lower left will be Mercury. Binoculars will help pick both objects up against the brightening dawn sky.
January 27 — New Moon at 7:07 p.m. In this phase, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye.
January 29-30 – At dusk/nightfall, look to the southwest to see the tiny waxing crescent Moon will be below Venus.
January 31 – Look to the southwest at dusk to see the thin, waxing crescent Moon and Venus form a “wink.” Mars will be above the Moon.