Welcome to the January night sky. This month has three notable meteor showers for those who can brave the long cold nights in the northern hemisphere.
At the moment, the snow cover is at its highest, in terms of square kilometres, for the last 56 years (since reliable satellite information was gathered). This is significant considering January is the month of perihelion when the planet Earth is slightly closer to the Sun than on average.
On the night of the 3rd onto the morning of the 4th, we have the Quadrantids, and this is the best shower of the month with possibly up to 80 fast-moving blue meteors per hour.
On the 15th and the 16th, we have the Delta Cancrids, and the origin point will be overhead after midnight. On the 18th, we have the Comae Berenicids, which are also very fast-moving meteors.
Venus emerges as evening star in the constellation of Pisces and will form an interesting trio with the Moon and Saturn on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd just after sunset.
The red planet Mars is still well visible in the south, but it is fading rapidly since its opposition in early December. Jupiter will be seen low down in the southwest during January evenings and the Moon will be close on the 25th and 26th.
The magnificent constellation of Orion the Hunter is seen high up in due south on January evenings. As this constellation is on the Equator of the sky, it is visible from all over the world at this time.
The winter Milky-Way is now filling the southern sky as seen from a dark clear site. Mixed in with the Milky-Way star clouds are some of the brightest stars in the night sky.
Starting with Sirius low down in southeast then moving up, we have Procyon in the constellation of Canis Minor and, nearly overhead, we have Capella in the constellation of Auriga.
Between Procyon and Capella, we have the twin stars of Gemini named Castor and Pollux.
On the opposite side of the Milky-Way, we have the orange-coloured star of Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. This constellation also contains the star cluster of Pleiades.
The Moon is full on the 6th, last quarter on the 15th, new on the 21st, first quarter on January 28.
Clive Jackson is the director of the Camera Obscura – Tavira EYE attraction, located near the Castle of Tavira. Specialising in education and public outreach.
281 322 527 | [email protected] www.torredetavira.com
To see the January Sky Map click on the pdf link below