This is your monthly guide to observing the planets, celestial events, moon phases, this day in space history, NASA launches, and other astronomy resources.
Observing The Planets:
- Mercury (evening planet) remains low in the southwest at twilight and getting lower every day.
- Venus (morning planet, magnitude -4.0) is visible high in the east in the predawn sky.
- Mars (morning planet, magnitude +1.5, in Virgo) is visible in the east just before sunrise.
- Jupiter (morning planet, magnitude -2.2, in Leo) is visible in the eastern predawn sky.
- Saturn (not visible) is lost in the glow of the sunrise.
- Uranus (evening planet, magnitude +5.8, in Pisces) is visible high in the south. Visible most of the night.
- Neptune (evening planet, magnitude +7.9, in Aquarius) is moving low in the southwest in early evening.
Understanding Visual Magnitude: Magnitude is a scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmer the object the greater the number. The brightest objects generally receive negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude -4.9, the full moon is generally -12.7 and the sun is -26.8.
Moon Phases & Celestial Events:
- January 1: New Year’s Day
- January 2: Last Quarter Moon at 11:30 am CST.
- January 2: Moon is at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 6 am CST at a distance of 404,277 km with an angular size of 29.6′.
- January 2: Earth is at Perihelion (closest to the Sun) at 5 pm CST at a distance of 147.1 kilometers.
- January 3: Moon is less than 5° from Spica.
- January 4: Quadrantid meteors peak about 2 am CST.
- January 7: The moon, Venus, and Saturn are within a 3° circle of eachother in the Southeast before sunrise.
- January 9: New Moon at 7:31 pm CST.
- January 9: Close conjunction of Venus and Saturn before sunrise.
- January 14: Moon at perigee (closest to Earth) at 8 pm CST at a distance of 369,619 km with an angular size of 32.4′.
- January 15-16: The Moon and Uranus will both reside in front of the constellation Pisces. How to locate Uranus and Neptune.
- January 16: First Quarter Moon at 5:26 pm CST.
- January 19: Moon occults Aldebaran at 8:35 pm CST.
- January 23: Full Moon at 7:46 pm CST.
- January 25: Moon is less than 3° from Regulus.
- January 27: Moon is 3° from Jupiter.
- January 30: Moon is at apogee (farthest from Earth) at 3 am CST at a distance of 404,553 km with an angular size of 29.5′.
- January 31: Last Quarter Moon at 9:28 pm CST.
The following missions are scheduled for January:
Date: January 17, 2016.
Mission: Jason-3 (NOAA)
Description: Jason-3, a mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the latest in a series of U.S.-European satellite missions that have been measuring the height of the ocean surface for 23 years.
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Want to learn more about what goes on each week on the International Space Station? Watch NASA’s weekly Space to Ground video log.
This Day In Space History:
- January 2, 1959: Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to leave Earth’s gravity.
- January 3, 2004: Spirit rover lands on Mars.
- January 7, 1610: Galileo discovers Jupiter’s moons Io, Europa, and Callisto.
- January 10, 1946: U.S. Army Signal Corps makes first radar contact with the Moon.
- January 11, 1787: William Hershel discovered Uranus’s moons Titania and Oberon.
- January 13, 1610: Galileo discovers Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.
- January 14, 2005: Huygens lands on Titan.
- January 24, 1986: Voyager 2 flies past Uranus.
- January 25, 2004: Opportunity rover lands on Mars.
- January 27, 1967: Apollo 1 crew is killed on launch pad due to a fire.
- January 28, 1986: The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes, killing crew.
- January 31, 1958: Explorer 1 launched, becoming America’s first orbiting spacecraft.
- Satellite flybys: Want to know when satellites, the International Space Station, and the Hubble Space Telescope will fly over your location? Enter your zip code here to get a personal calendar.
- Our Current Solar System: Find out the current distances and locations of the solar system planets from the Earth and sun right now.
- The Stargazer’s Guide to the Night Sky
- Sighting the International Space Station (ISS)
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