January 2019

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

This year is an excellent renewal of the Quadrantids meteor shower, with dark skies favouring the peak on 4 January. There are also two eclipses, a partial solar eclipse on the fifth and a total lunar eclipse on 21 January.

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Date Body Event
1 Saturn maximum ring opening: 25.5°
Moon, Venus 1.3° apart
Mercury descending node
2 Saturn conjunction
3 Earth perihelion
4 Earth Quadrantid meteor shower
5 Uranus maximum declination south
Moon, Saturn occultation of Saturn
Earth, Moon partial solar eclipse
6 Moon new
Venus greatest elongation west: 47.0°
7 Moon descending node
Uranus stationary point: retrograde → direct
9 Moon apogee
11 134340 Pluto conjunction
12 Mercury aphelion
13 Mercury, Saturn conjunction: 1.7° apart
14 Moon first quarter
15 Mars ascending node
17 Moon 1.6° north of Aldebaran
19 Uranus east quadrature
20 Moon ascending node
21 Earth, Moon total lunar eclipse
Moon full
Moon 0.6° south of the open star cluster M44 (known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster)
Moon perigee
22 Venus, Jupiter conjunction: 2.4° apart
27 Moon last quarter
30 Mercury superior conjunction
31 Moon, Venus occultation of Venus — visible from parts of the western Pacific

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

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Sun SagittariusCapricornus

Mercury OphiuchusSagittariusCapricornus

A morning sky object low in the east at dawn, Mercury is soon lost to view as it heads to superior conjunction on 30 January. Aphelion occurs on 12 January and the tiny planet is less than 2° away from Saturn on the next day but neither event will likely be noticed due to Mercury's proximity to the Sun.

Venus LibraScorpiusOphiuchusSagittarius

The morning star is just 1.3° south of the waning crescent Moon at the beginning of the year. Later, on 6 January, it is at greatest elongation west at 47.0° away from the Sun. From now until superior conjunction in August, Venus will look gibbous when viewed through a telescope. Venus and Jupiter are at conjunction on 22 January, a bright duo in the morning sky. This brilliant morning sky object ends the month as it began, with a close encounter with the waning crescent Moon. However, this time the Moon will be near enough to occult Venus at around 15:00 UT. This morning apparition favours southern latitudes where Venus is high in the east before sunrise.

Earth and Moon

Earth reaches perihelion, its closest position to the Sun, on 3 January. The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks just a day later. This is a good year to observe this shower, with the Moon nearly new. In fact, the New Moon on 6 January participates in a partial solar eclipse.

The Full Moon passes just south of Praesepe on 21 January but before that happens, it is totally eclipsed by Earth and cast into shadow.

Mars Pisces

Located near the asterism of 'The Circlet', Mars is easily visible in the evening sky. Shining at magnitude +0.5, this is as bright as it will get all year.

Jupiter Ophiuchus

Jupiter rises just ahead of the Sun and is most easily viewed from the southern hemisphere. It teams up with Venus in the morning sky, with the two planets coming within 3° in the latter half of the month, but a closer appulse between the two occurs at sunset in November.

Saturn Sagittarius

The year 2019 begins without Saturn as the ringed planet is at conjunction on 2 January and thus lost to view. Three days later it is occulted by the Moon but this event will not be visible. It appears less than 2° away from Mercury in the morning skies on 13 January but may still be too close to the Sun for this appulse to be seen.

Uranus Pisces

Uranus is the only planet to begin the year in retrograde, reversing direction on 7 January to begin direct motion. It reaches east quadrature on 19 January. An evening sky object, it is just visible to the naked eye at magnitude +5.8.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. An evening sky object this month, Neptune is best seen from northern temperate latitudes where the Sun sets in late afternoon. Look for it in the west after dark.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Mid-month Northern Hemisphere Equator Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 60° N 50° N 40° N 30° N 20° N 10° N 10° S 20° S 30° S 40° S