As the air gets cooler, the stars get brighter! January’s night sky will not disappoint. Highlights include many recognizable constellations, the Full Wolf Moon, and an opportunity to see how the Moon moves in its orbit.
Have a telescope? Don’t miss Saturn. The planet’s hallmark rings will collapse out of view soon! Look to the southwest horizon around 6 pm local time in the first several days of the new year. Later in the month (and into early February) scan the sky for a rare new comet.
Plan your stargazing activities this month with our helpful calendar and details below …
Bookmark this page now (Press command+D on your keyboard) so you can easily refer to it over the next few weeks. If you’re interested in locating particular planets in the sky throughout the year, take a look at our visible planets guide.
January Night Sky Guide
January 1-6 — “Scope” It Out with Saturn
This is the last time for five years that you may set up a telescope and see Saturn’s rings tilted (as we know them to look). This summer and fall they will be quite a bit narrower. Learn more about Saturn.
January 3 – Mars And The Moon
Mars blazes three degrees to the upper right of the waxing gibbous Moon this evening (about three pinky-finger tips apart). Over the course of the month Mars will fade significantly (from magnitude -1.2 to -0.3) as it moves farther away from Earth (from 60 to 82 million miles away).
Look east at dusk. The red planet will cross the meridian—its highest point in the sky—at approximately 9:40 pm local time on this night (and about two hours earlier by the January 31).
January 3-4 — The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peaks In January’s Night Sky
The Quadrantid Meteor Shower will reach its peak activity late January 3 and into the early morning hours of January 4, 2023. We recommend looking to the northeast sky at approximately 4am local time.
The “Quads” have a very sharp peak lasting only a few hours. This year’s timing favors central and eastern European observers, but deviations of up to six hours from the predicted time frame have been noted in past years, so North American observers should be on the lookout! If you’re watching when the shower arrives, this can be one of the year’s best meteor displays.
Between midnight and dawn, 40 or more of these moderately swift, blue meteors may be seen per hour. This year, however, glare from the waxing gibbous Moon will reduce these numbers significantly. Learn more about The Quadrantids.
January 4 — Earth at Perihelion
Earth reaches perihelion—its closest point to the Sun—at 11:17 am EST today, a distance of 91,403,034 miles. At this point, the Earth is about three percent closer to the Sun than it was in July (aphelion), which may be hard to believe in the frigid North! Learn more about perihelion and aphelion.
January 6 — The Full Wolf Moon
The full Wolf Moon reaches peak illumination at 6:08 pm EST. Learn more about the Full Wolf Moon in the following video:
January 7 – Mercury Inferior Conjunction
Mercury passes through inferior conjunction (between the Earth and the Sun) and transitions into the morning sky. A week later, it becomes visible as a 1st-magnitude “star” on the eastern horizon, approximately one hour before the Sun rises.
Look low in the east-southeast sky, 30 degrees to the lower left of the bright reddish star Antares. Quickly, Mercury becomes higher and more noticeable. By January 21, it will have brightened to +0.3 and rises as morning twilight begins.
January 12-February10 — Rare Sky Event Alert: New Comet!
Newly discovered Comet ZTF is coming the closest in 50,000 years, becoming more visible, and making big headlines. Some are calling it “super rare” and a “bright green” comet, but will it live up to the hype? We explain.
January 14 – First Quarter Moon
The first quarter Moon occurs at 9:10 pm EST.
January 21 – New Moon – Stargaze Tonight!
The new Moon occurs at 3:53 pm EST. Learn how to align your intentions with the Phases of the Moon: Moon Meditations.
Stargazers love New Moon nights because the bright moonlight doesn’t obstruct the view! Bundle up and go outside to see some of the best views all month—perhaps all year.
Late in the evening, look south. You’ll see three bright stars hanging in a line (Orion’s Belt). They point down and to the left—towards the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.
Sirius may sound familiar to you—especially if you followed along with us this past summer. In July, during the “Dog Days,” the Sun aligns with this super bright star. In winter nights, the Sun is on the other side of the sky, so Sirius is visible to us! Learn more about Sirius.
This is also a great opportunity to get a glimpse of Comet ZTF. Use a star map and look north, above and to the left of the Big Dipper (between constellations Boötes and Draco). See more details.
Like two ships passing in the night, Venus and Saturn are moving in opposite directions. Venus is rising in altitude. Saturn is lowering. These two planets will appear closest together tonight.
As January begins, Venus is 17 degrees east of the Sun and remains in the southwestern sky 80 minutes after sundown. By January 31, the planet will be 24 degrees from the Sun, setting 2 hours after the Sun.
January 23 – Venus, Saturn, And The Crescent Moon
Venus and Saturn are joined this evening by a two-day old waxing crescent Moon, which will be positioned about seven degrees to the upper left of the planets.
January 24+25 — “Moon Tracks” With Jupiter
Did you know that the Moon moves right to left (west to east) over the course of the month? (This is the opposite direction that it appears to move on any given night.) Get a glimpse of the Moon’s true motion as it orbits the Earth by using Jupiter as a landmark on these two nights! (Jupiter moves much more slowly than the Moon, so it makes a great reference point.)
Look toward the southwest sky at approximately 6pm on both nights. On the first night, January 24, the waxing crescent Moon will be positioned to the lower right of Jupiter. The following night, the Moon will be positioned to Jupiter’s lower left.
If either of these two nights happens to be cloudy, rest assured there will be many other chances in the future to track the Moon. Stick with us!
January 28 – Last Quarter Moon
The last quarter Moon occurs at 10:19 am EST.
January 30 – Mercury
Mercury arrives at greatest elongation, 25 degrees west of the Sun. It will be visible to the naked eye until February 12.
Degrees are measurements of distance in space. Did you know that you can use your hand as a guide to approximate them? See our illustration below:
Magnitudes refer to the brightness of an object in space. The lower the number, the more dazzling it is. Bright stars are 1 or 0 magnitude. Fainter ones are 5 or 6. Super bright stars are in negative numbers. For instance, Sirius is magnitude -1.4. (For reference, the full Moon is -12.7 and the Sun is -26.7.)
All times and positions for the next 30 days are listed in Eastern Standard Time, 40 degrees north of the equator.
Please also note that any mentions of sunrise, midnight, and sunset are true for every time zone in the United States. If the time is designated as “local,” it is also true for every time zone.
Join The Discussion!
Will you use a telescope to see Saturn’s rings in January’s night sky?
Have you ever seen Sirius in the sky before?
Are you looking forward to the next full Moon?
Let us know in the comments below!