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The January Night Sky

The sky is not a painting, it's a movie. Stars pulse, flare, some explode as supernova, asteroids whiz by the earth, new comets appear in the sky, Aurora sets the northern skies ablaze and meteors streak through Earth's atmosphere.

 Astronomy Picture of the Day

See below Hubble site Tonight's Sky, highlights of this months night sky movie with narration below. Click on photo below.


The Earth is closest to the Sun on January 4th. The Earth reaches perihelion – its closest distance to the Sun – at 9:00 am EST on January 4, when the two will be separated by 91.4 million miles (147.1 million km). On January 4th we will see year’s latest sunrise for the year.

The Full Moon for January

The Full Wolf Moon – January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon. Courtesy: Farmers Almanac.

Lunar Phase

First Quarter Moon January 5 2:47 pm EST
Full Moon January 12 6:43 am EST
Last Quarter Moon January 19 5:13 pm EST
New Moon January 27 7:07 pm EST


January Visible Lunar Highlights

The crescent Moon on January 2nd is 06°30'48" above the planet Venus and is  04°43'40" below Mars and is visible after sunset in the west.

January 19th, the waning gibbous Moon passes within 2° of Jupiter. On January 31, 2017, 6:00 pm EST. The Moon, Venus, and Mars are close together. Mars and the Moon are 03°23'01" degrees from each other and the Moon is  05°15'58"  degrees from Venus all visible after sunset in the west.

The Planets Visibility for January


Morning sky SE Early January 3rd Mercury is too close to the Sun to view currently

 Mercury January 2nd is at -2.2 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'10" and phase of 09.14% Mercury is located in the constellation Sagittarius.


Evening sky SW

Venus January 12th is at -4.4 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'25" and phase of 50.82%. Venus sets at 8:59 pm.. Venus will be the brightest object in the western evening sky. Venus is in the constellation Aquarius. Neptune is passing Venus. and the two planets  appear closest the evening of January 12th  only 0.4° (degrees) apart. See Neptune.


Evening sky SW

Mars January 2nd is at 0.9 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'06" located in the constellation Aquarius which is visible after sunset in the south southwest. Mars sets at 9:42 pm.

To see which part of Mars surface is visible at any time, check out the Mars Profiler at Sky & Telescope Magazine's web page.


Morning Sky S

Jupiter January 2nd is at -2.0 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'36" located in the constellation Virgo. Jupiter rises at 1:00 am.

A small telescope will easily reveal four of Jupiter's largest and brightest moons. Check out Sky & Telescope's Jupiter Moons Utility for other configurations. Sky and Telescope Red Spot Calculator 


Morning sky SE 

Saturn January 2nd is at +0.5 magnitude with a diameter 00°00'15" located in the constellation Ophiuchus visible high in the east. Saturn rises at 5:57 am. Saturn is emerging from the glare of the Sun and is very low above the southeast morning horizon.

See: Saturn's moons locations 


Evening  to morning Sky SW

Uranus January 2nd is at 5.8 magnitude and diameter 00°00'.04" sets at 1:04 am in the constellation Pisces.

 A moderate-sized telescope will show it as a green-gray disk. See: Sky and Telescope location PDF. Courtesy: Sky and Telescope


Evening  Sky S to Southwest

Neptune on January 12th is at 7.9 magnitude and diameter 00°00'.02". Neptune is passing Venus. and the two planets  appear closest the evening of January 12th  only 0.4° (degrees) apart. Neptune is located to Venus's lower left. Neptune is in the constellation Aquarius and sets at 8:57 pm.. See image below showing location of Venus and Neptune in Aquarius for 7:00 pm on January 12th.

See: Sky and Telescope location PDF. Courtesy: Sky and Telescope

Dwarf Planets


Evening Sky 

Pluto is located amid the stars of the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius. Pluto is at magnitude +14.2 and diameter 00°00'.00" setting at 11:16 pm..


February 11th the comet passes about 8 million miles from Earth. The comet reached perihelion December 31, 2016. Comet 45P, was discovered by Minoru Honda in December 1948. This comet is a periodic comet and orbits the Sun once every 5.25 years. 

Below image shows location of comet on evening of January 14th at 6:00 pm. It is currently at 6.1 magnitude diameter of 6'.5 with a short 1/2 degree tail and is located in the constellation Capricornus at RA: 1h 11m 41s Dec: -14°48'57" at 6:00 pm.. The comet sets at 6:52 pm. and is 03°39'00" to the left of 8.9 magnitude M-73. It is very low on the WSW horizon and 26 degrees below Venus. The Sun sets at 5:05 this night of the 14th. On the 15th of January the comet is on the border of Capricornus and Aquarius moving into Aquarius on the 16th.

  For more on current Comets and locations see: Sky & Telescope also Seiichi Yoshida web site here.


January  Meteors

Quadrantid Meteors

The Quadrantid are active from January 1st to January 10th and peaks on night of January 3 through the morning of the 4th and best time to observe is around midnight till dawn.  This shower probably will produce around 25 meteors per hour but possible to produce 120 +per hour. There is not a Moon to hinder observations this night. These meteors often produce bright fireballs. It is thought that 2003 EH1 may be the remnant of a larger parent comet called C1490 Y1 that results in this meteor shower when Earth passes through the old debris stream. Click on image below for more information.

See: Listen to Meteors , American Meteor Society, Meteors Online also NASA All Sky Network

Some local links below to Heavens Above satellite information website.

Satellites Visible from York

Satellites visible from Hanover

Satellites visible from Gettysburg

Satellites visible from Lancaster

Satellites visible from Baltimore

Satellites visible from Harrisburg

Also see: Spaceflight NASA

The Sun

Real time solar wind dials are linked live to the ACE Spacecraft.

 If the dial on the left (Magnetic Field) has dipped below zero, the speed is high and the dial dynamic pressure is in the yellow/red, be alert for Aurora. Anytime the gauges are in the Red and the dial on the left, the Magnetic Field BZ has dipped to the yellow-red... Aurora will be occurring in our area. See link to solar wind gauge here: REAL TIME SOLAR WIND

See explanation of  solar wind dials below by clicking on photo of dials


Use your hand to find degrees

NASA Night Sky Network Planner

Free download. AstroPlanner  

Download a free starmap at: Skymaps

Make your own starmap at: Star Finder

Download a free Planetarium for your computer at: Stellarium or Hallo Northern Sky Stellarium has many extra features.

Your Sky - Fourmilab

Your night sky map on the internet

Sky & Telescope Interactive Sky Chart Register to use.

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