Breakdown: Why January is a great month to look up

Published: Jan. 2, 2022 at 11:35 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 10:49 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Why January is a great month to look up

This month will start with decent meteor shower. The Quadrantids will be active January 1-5 and produces with up to 40 meteors per hour during the peak. It will peak on the 3rd night through the early morning on the 4th. The Quadrantids originate from dust grains left behind by Comet 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. Best viewing will after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes but can appear anywhere in the sky.

On Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 1 a.m. CST, the Earth will reach perihelion, its minimum distance from the sun for the year. This goes to show that daily temperatures on Earth are not controlled by how close we are to the sun, but by the number of hours of daylight we experience.

On the same day the moon will make its monthly trip past several planets on Jan. 4. After sunset, the creamy dot of Saturn will appear shining several finger-widths to the upper right of the crescent moon, close enough for them to share the view in binoculars (green circle). Watch for the brighter planets Mercury (below the pair) and Jupiter (above the pair). The grouping will make a a great photo opportunity.

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, the waxing crescent moon will climb to sit a palm’s width below bright Jupiter in the southwestern sky after dusk. Saturn, Mercury, and Venus will be strung out to their lower right — although Venus will set quickly after sunset. As the sky darkens, keep an eye out for Earthshine, sunlight reflected from Earth that slightly brightens the dark portion of the moon’s disk.

Just a few days later January 7th Mercury will be at Greatest Eastern Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation of 19.2 degrees from the Sun. This will be the best time to see Mercury because it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

On January 17th check out the full moon which is known as the Wolf Moon, and it is also known as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule. Wolf Moon was named by early Native American tribes that said during this time of year, hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps.

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the distant, blue-green planet Uranus will temporarily cease its motion through the distant stars of southern Aries. After Tuesday, the planet will begin to move eastward again. Uranus can be seen in binoculars (green circle) and telescopes, and even with unaided eyes, under dark skies. Look for the planet’s small, blue-green dot in the lower left of Aries’.

In mid-evening during late January on the 21st, Pleiades open star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters will be positioned in in the southern sky. Visually, the Pleiades is composed of the medium-bright, hot blue stars. Due to its shape, the Pleiades are sometimes confused with the Little Dipper.

On Saturday, Jan. 29, the crescent moon and the bright reddish dot of Mars will rise together in the southeastern sky shortly after 5 a.m. local time. The pair will be close enough to share the view in binoculars with Mars positioned just a few finger-widths to the moon’s upper left.

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