Happy New Year! January is an exciting month to look to the heavens. Below is a stargazer’s guide to January 2018’s celestial events happening in the night (and morning) sky.
Be sure to look for Orion, who dominates the winter sky this month!
All times are Eastern Standard Time, for the Northern Hemisphere:
January 1 — Full Wolf Moon at 9:34 p.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. The Moon also reaches perigee at 5:00 p.m. (the closest to Earth in its orbit) so this is considered a “supermoon.”
January 3-4 — The Quadrantid Meteor Shower peaks. These meteors appear to radiate from a spot in the sky midway between the last star in the handle of the Big Dipper and the head of Draco, the Dragon, but they officially radiate from within the boundaries of the constellation Boötes, The Herdsman.
January 4 — Latest sunrise of 2018.
January 7 — This week, look to the southeast before dawn, to see Mars and Jupiter in conjunction, with the red planet Mars appearing just 0.25o south of Jupiter.
January 8 — Last Quarter Moon, 5:25 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 9 – Before dawn in the southwest sky, locate Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, near the waning crescent Moon. The planets Jupiter and Mars are also nearby. If you’ll watch over the coming mornings, look for the Moon creep downward toward the sunrise, sweeping past Mars and Jupiter, closest to them by the 11th.
January 11 — Look to the southeast at around 5:30 a.m. to see an isosceles triangle formed by a small waning crescent Moon, brilliant Jupiter, and orange-yellow Mars.
January 12 — Before daybreak, about an hour before sunrise, look low to the southeast horizon to spot the close pairing of Mercury and Saturn.
January 15 — This week, the star Mira — the first-ever variable star to be discovered — is expected to peak at its maximum brightness.
January 16 — 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 22 — The brightest of all stars shines prominently this week at around 10:30 p.m. local time over toward the south. Sirius, the “Dog Star,” is the brightest star of the constellation which bears the Latin name Canis Major — the Greater Dog.
January 24 — First Quarter Moon at 5:20 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 28 — The waxing gibbous Moon can be located inside the Winter Circle asterism. The Winter Circle is really more the shape of a hexagon, and made up of these first-magnitude stars: Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor, Pollux, and Procyon.
January 31 — Full Moon at 8:27 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. This is the second full Moon of the month, therefore it is considered a “Blue Moon”
January 31 – Total lunar eclipse. A Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon, and lines up precisely so that it blocks the Sun’s light, which otherwise reflects off the Moon. Learn more about this eclipse here.