January kicks off the new year with a host of great skywatching opportunities. From comets to double shadow transits on Jupiter, January is full of celestial events:
Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), discovered in August 2014, reaches 4th magnitude this month. With a fuzzy greenish glow (due to diatomic carbon (C2) fluorescing in ultraviolet sunlight) and its dim tail, Comet Lovejoy will be positioned high in the dark winter nights all month long. Look for it an hour or so after sunset in the constellation Orion. Under extremely dark skies and good sky conditions it can be visible to the unaided eye. However, it is best seen using binoculars or a telescope. The comet will make its closest approach to Earth (about 43.6 million miles or 70.2 million kilometers) on Wednesday the 7th. This is about as close as Mars ever gets to our planet. – How to locate Comet Lovejoy
Also, be on the lookout for the double shadow transits of Jupiter’s moons Io and Europa on the 6th, 9th, and 16th of this month. Io and Europa will cast their shadows simultaneously. Then for an extremely rare event, the moon Callisto will join the group on the 23rd and create a triple shadow transit. This will not occur again until 2032.