The New Moon for January occurs on Thursday, January 14th which will make the weekend on January 16-17 the best weekend for dark sky observing.
On January 14th, there will be an Annular Solar Eclipse. Unfortunately it is only visible from East Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southern India and Southeast Asia.
An Eclipse occurs when one astronomical object moves into the shadow of another. The two types of eclipses of most interest to Earthlings, are Solar Eclipses when the Moon’s shadow is cast across the seurface of the Earth, and Lunar Eclipses where the Earth’s shadow is cast onto the Moon. Lunar and Solar Eclipses usually occur two weeks from each other. Solar Eclpse always occur during a New Moon and Lunar Eclipses always occur during a Full Moon.
The Perihelion is the point in Earth’s elliptical orbit that it is closest to the Sun. This is the opposite point to the Aphelion when the Earth is at its furthest point to the Sun, which occurs in June.
Mercury is located in the constellation Sagittarius (The Archer) all month, but will not be observable until January 9th when it emerges from the glare of the morning Sun. Around January 15th, Mercury halts its retrograde and reaches its Greatest Western Elongation on January 26th and at that time will be 24°45’09” from the Sun, for best morning views.
|Elongations occur when the planet position in its orbital path is at tangent to the view from Earth. Because these inner planets are inside the Earth’s orbit, their positions as viewed from the Earth are never very far from the position of the Sun. When a planet is at Elongation is it furthest from the Sun as viewed from Earth, so it’s view is best at that point. There are two kinds of Elongations: The Eastern Elongation occurs when the planet is in the evening sky and the Western Elongation Occurs when a planet is in the morning sky.|
The planet Venus is not observable this month as it passes in proximity to the Sun as it moves from morning to evening hours.
Mars is observable all night, all month; Rising around 8:45 pm (PST) at the start of January and rising around 5:50 pm (PST) by the end of the month. Mars can be found in the constellation Leo (The Lion) at the start of the month and on January 9th, Mars moves to the constellation Cancer (The Crab).
For planets outside the Earth’s orbit (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto), the months around Oppositions are the best time to view these. An Opposition occurs when the planet is opposite from the Sun relative to the Earth. At Opposition the planet will rise as the Sun sets and will set as the Sun rises providing an entire night of observation. Also at Opposition the planet comes physically closest to the Earth in it’s orbit so it appears as large as possible.
Jupiter can be observed in the evening hours on January. At the start or the month Jupiter sets around 9:25 pm (PST) and by the end of the month it sets around 8:00 pm (PST). Jupiter is located at the start of January in the constellation Capricornus (The Sea Goat), and on January 5th, moves into the constellation Aquarius (The Water Bearer).
Saturn is observable from the mid-night hours until morning in the constellation Virgo (The Maiden). Saturn rises around 12:30 am (PST) at the start of January and rises around 10:25 pm (PST) at the end of the month.
The planet Uranus is observable in the evening in January. Uranus sets around 11:30 pm (PST) at the beginning of January and by the end is setting around 9:40 pm (PST). Uranus will move out of the constellation Aquarius (The Water Bearer) and into the constellation Pisces (The Fish) on January 14th. Uranus will remain in Pisces until May, 2012.
Neptune is located in the constellation Capricornus (The Sea Goat) until March 2010. Neptune is observable in the evening hours of January until the end of the month when it will disappear into the glare of the sunset. Neptune sets at the start of January around 9:15 pm (PST) and by the end is setting around 7:25 pm (PST).
Pluto is located in the constellation Sagittarius (The Archer) until the year 2023. Pluto emerges in the morning hours after January 8th; rising around 7:15 am (PST) at the start of the month and rising around 5:20 am (PST) at the end.