You are hereTHIS MONTH’S SKY - January 2012

THIS MONTH’S SKY - January 2012


Celestial Events—January 2012


We discussed Comet Garradd last month. It should continue to brighten in January. Brightness is predicted to increase from magnitude 7.3 to 7.1.


The comet remains in Hercules, moving north toward Draco. It can no longer be viewed in the evening, but has become easier to spot in the morning sky.


On January 25, the comet is within 8.5 arc minutes of the star Rho (ρ) Herculis.


Chart 1 is an all-sky chart showing the position of Comet Garradd at 6 p.m. through January at five-day intervals. Chart 2 is a close-up of the comet’s path through Hercules.


In February, the comet should be at its brightest. We’ll have charts next month.

Chart 1. All-Sky: Comet Garradd, 6:00 a.m, through January



Chart 2. Close-up in Hercules: Comet Garradd, 6:00 a.m., through January




Click to get more sky charts and a description of the sky for this month.



MERCURY can be seen with difficulty the first few days of the month. Afterward it is lost in the Sun’s glare.

VENUS (magnitude -4.0 to -4.1, diameter 12.9" to 15.0", illumination 83% to 75%) is in the southwest sky a half hour after sunset early in January. During the month, Venus is higher and easy to spot. Watch it pass 1.1° to the left of Neptune on the 13th.

MARS (magnitude +0.2 to -0.5, diameter 9.0" to 11.7") rises at 10 p.m. early in the month and 8:30 p.m. at the end. It continues to brighten, as it moves from Leo into Virgo on the 15th. On the 24th, Mars reverses its motion, turning retrograde. Follow Mars for the next few weeks as it continues to brighten.

JUPITER (magnitude -2.6 to -2.4, diameter 43.4" to 39.3") moves from Pisces into Aries on the 8th. Watch it get lower week by week as it approaches Venus.

SATURN (magnitude +0.7 to +0.6, diameter 16.7" to 17.6") is near the bright star Spica in Virgo all month, 6.2° to 7.1° east of the star.

URANUS (magnitude +5.9, diameter 3.4") is in Pisces, getting low in the west as the sky gets dark.

NEPTUNE (magnitude +8.0, diameter 2.2") is in Aquarius, getting low, and will soon be gone. Watch Venus approach it on the 13th.

PLUTO (magnitude +14.1, diameter 0.1") is in Sagittarius, too near the Sun to be seen.

The MOON is 4½° above Jupiter on January 2, 9° below Mars on the 14th, 2½° below Spica and 8° right of Saturn on the 16th, 3½° above left of Antares on the 19th, 6° above Venus on the 26th, 8½° to the upper right of Jupiter on the 29th, and 6° to the upper left of Jupiter on the 30th. See below for the phases of the Moon.



(Times in EST)

January 1 First Quarter Moon at 1:15 AM.
January 2 Jupiter is 4½° below the Moon this evening.
January 4 The Moon is 4° below right of the Pleiades Star Cluster.
  The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks this morning.
  Earth is at perihelion, its nearest to the Sun this year.
January 9 Full Moon at 2:30 AM.
January 14 Mars is well above the Moon this morning (11°).
January 16 The Moon passes only 2° to 3° below Spica this morning. Saturn is 8° to the left.
  Last Quarter Moon at 4:08 AM.
January 19 The Moon is 3° to 4° to the upper left of Antares this morning.
January 22 New Moon at 2:39 AM.
January 24 Mars is stationary, beginning retrograde movement.
January 26 At dusk, the waxing crescent Moon is 7° above Venus.
January 29 The Moon is 9° to the upper right of Jupiter.
January 30 The Moon is now 6½° to the upper left of Jupiter.
January 31 First Quarter Moon at 11:10 PM.