Happy New Year! As 2019 kicks off, it’s a great time to make a resolution: to go stargazing and appreciate the night sky more! The coming month will offer many fantastic opportunities to get out and see the stars… and planets… and a meteor shower… and two eclipses!
If you need a telescope to help enjoy this month’s night sky events, we have a guide to the best stargazing telescopes. From the Meade Polaris 130 (under $200) to the Orion Atlas 8 EQ-G GoTo ($2000), you can find one for your astronomy interest and budget.
January 1 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
Lovely Venus is always so bright, and when it appears near the moon, it’s a great night to go out and look up. Both January 1st and again January 31st, the moon and Venus will have a close approach. On January 1st, the moon and Venus will appear within 1.5° of each other in the southern sky just after sundown. On January 31st, they’ll appear almost on top of each other.
As the moon will be a waning crescent both nights, you won’t have too much light from the moon obstructing your view. Grab a pair of binoculars for stargazing to get a close-up view.
January 2 – M41 is Well-Placed in Canis Major
As the moon approaches its new phase in early January, it’s a perfect time to see the M41 Open Star Cluster well-placed in the night sky, especially if you’re well away from city lights as part of your New Year’s celebrations. All you’ll need are astronomical binoculars and a bit of knowledge to spot Canis Major, the great dog. Look for Canis Major and M41 in the southern sky, around midnight.
January 3 – Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
The astronomically interesting first week of 2019 continues on January 3rd as the moon and Jupiter make a close approach. On the very last night of the waning moon, look for Jupiter and the sliver of the moon in the southern sky, about 3° apart. The pair will certainly be visible with your unaided eyes, but a pair of binoculars or a starter telescope you’ll have an even better view.
They’ll do so again on January 30th, too, if your skies are cloudy earlier in the month. This time, the moon will pass within 2.5° of Jupiter’s position – but the moon will be a brighter waning crescent so might add more light pollution. Again, look for this pair in the southern sky after sundown.
January 4 – Peak of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower
As if three days of stargazing wasn’t exciting enough – there’s a meteor shower to look for, peaking on January 4th. The Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of the year, is expected to peak on January 4th. On that night, look for a maximum of 80 meteors per hour radiating from a point in the northern sky. It’s important to note that the Quadrantids, while an active shower, may see maximum activity for only a few hours on the peak night.
As a tip, you don’t need to look at the northern sky to see the meteors. Instead, scan the whole northern half of the sky to try and see these somewhat faint meteors as they appear.
January 6 – Partial Solar Eclipse Across Eastern Asia
If you live in Eastern Asia, Eastern Siberia, or far western Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, this one’s for you. A partial solar eclipse will start at 11:34 pm UTC on January 5th and end at 3:48 am UTC on January 6th. The maximum eclipse will occur will at 1:41 am UTC. (If you don’t happen to live in the range where this eclipse will be visible, January 5th/6th is the night of the new moon in January. That makes it (yet another) great night for stargazing.)
During this partial solar eclipse, don’t forget that you will need to wear eye protection at all times during the eclipse. There is no point where the eclipse is safe to view with your naked eye.
Want to view the next total solar eclipse? Here’s what you need to know about the July 2019 solar eclipse.
January 12 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars
Mars may not be as brilliant and bright as it was six months ago, but it’s always nice to see our celestial neighbor. On January 12th, the moon will pass within 5° of Mars in the southeastern sky. The moon will be approaching its first quarter so it will be bright and the terminator will be interesting if you choose to stargaze with a telescope this night. Mars and the moon won’t fit in a single telescope frame, so use binoculars or your eyes to see them both.
January 14 – M47 is Well-Placed in Puppis
January presents a second great opportunity to view an open star cluster, this time M47 which will be best placed for viewing on the night of January 14th. M47 is one of the oldest-known open star clusters, and its discovery dates back to both 1654 and 1771! Depending on your location, M47 will be visible high in the southern sky in the constellation Puppis. M47 will be best viewed with a pair of binoculars.
January 20/21 – Total Lunar Eclipse Across the Americas & Europe
Last year, the total lunar eclipses in late January and again in late July wowed viewers across North America and Europe. Now, on January 20th another Total Lunar Eclipse will occur across both of those continents. The total lunar eclipse will be fully visible across North America, South America, and far Western and Northern Europe. A partial lunar eclipse will also be visible across the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
If you live in one of these regions, it’ll be a great night to stay up (or get up early) to see this lunar eclipse. Check out our comprehensive guide to the January 2019 lunar eclipse.
January 31 – M44 is Well-Placed in Cancer
Third time’s the charm viewing open star clusters in January! As the month ends, you can look for the close approach of the moon and Venus (mentioned above), and try to view the Beehive open star cluster, also known as M44. M44 is located in Cancer, and will be visible high in the night sky – technically the southern sky, but you can look pretty much straight up to find Cancer on this night. You’ll need a pair of binoculars to see M44.
Do you have questions about night sky events in January? Email/contact us!
Featured photo credit: Mike Lewinski via Flickr