The January Skies

The planet Mercury can be spotted very low in the east-southeast predawn sky during the first two weeks of January. On the morning of the 13th, it is joined by Saturn as the ringed planet rises higher while little Mercury sinks lower each day. Mercury then begins to swing behind the sun in relation to Earth and is lost in the solar glare.

Venus is behind the sun during the entire month of January and will not be visible from Earth. It will reappear very low in the west-southwest evening twilight in late February.

Dim Mars rises in the predawn southeastern sky about four hours before the sun early in the month. The Red Planet passes close to much brighter Jupiter on the mornings of Jan. 6 and 7. Earth, in its faster orbit, is beginning to catch up to Mars in preparation for a spectacular show this summer.

Jupiter also rises in the southeastern predawn sky, rising higher each morning throughout the month. Its conjunction with Mars on the 6th and 7th will present a great sight in binoculars and both planets will be in the same field of view in a telescopic low-power eyepiece.

Beautiful Saturn appears very low in the east-southeast as dawn begins during the second half of January. Both Mercury and Saturn can be spotted in binoculars before sunrise. Mercury will sink lower into the solar glare each morning while Saturn will rise higher in the sky as the month progresses.

As viewed from Earth, the spiral galaxy NGC891 is viewed nearly exactly edge-on. This object can be seen in small telescopes on clear winter evenings. It lies 30 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. Courtesy Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive

Editor’s note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association and the Post -Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at

The Wizard Nebula (NGC7380) can be spotted in small telescopes this month in the constellation Cepheus. Gravity and powerful stellar winds in the nebula create enormous towers of gas and dust in the vicinity of young star clusters. This object, discovered in 1787 by Caroline Herschel, lies 7,200 light-years away. Courtesy NASA/JPL, CalTech/UCLA

At left, supernova remnant Cas A can be glimpsed in amateur telescopes during January in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is the brightest extrasolar radio source in the sky at radio frequencies above 1 GHz. Courtesy NASA/JPL- Caltech