All times are in UT (GMT)
On January 5th
at 07h49, the Earth is at perihelion, its very nearest to the Sun, when the solar distance is 147,091144 km (0.983243564 a.u.) from the Earth’s centre. (1 a.u. is the mean Sun-Earth distance.)
At the start of January, the Sun lies in the constellation of Sagittarius until, on the 20th at around 12h00, it crosses the astronomical border into Capricornus, where it remains for the rest of the month.
During January, the Moon is at its furthest from the Earth (apogee) at 01h on the
2nd , and a second apogee on the 29th at 21h, and is at its nearest to the Earth (perigee) on the 13tht at 21h.
Quarter on Jan 3rd at 04h03 in the constellation of Cetus.
Full Moon this month is on the 10th at 19h22, and this
is the first of the highest Full Moon of the year; the other is in December. It lies in the constellation of Gemini in the vicinity of Castor and Pollux.
There is a penumbral (magnitude 0.9) eclipse of the Moon;
the greatest phase is at 19h10. The entire eclipse is visible from all of Asia, western Europe, most of Africa, but as with all penumbral eclipses there is only a slight dimming on the surface of the Full Moon, and for most people, no eclipse seems to be taking
place. The reason for this is that in a penumbral eclipse, only part of the Sun is covered by the Earth; sunlight is so intense that this terrestrial covering has very little effect on the lunar surface when observed from Earth.
Last Quarter is at 12h59 on the 17th, in the constellation of Virgo, just to the north of Spica.
New Moon is on Jan 24th at 21h43 in the constellation of Capricornus, the Moon passing just to the south of the Sun.
Look for Earthshine on the night
hemisphere of the waxing crescent Moon on the 1st and 2nd of the month and again on the 25th to the month’s end; and on the waning crescent from the 18th to the 24th.
Earthshine is the faint glow on the night hemisphere of the Moon caused by reflected sunlight from the Earth.
For most of January, Mercury is lost in the glare of the Sun, but by the end of the month it may be possible tp glimpse it through binoculars
low in the SW sky after sunset in the bright twilight. On the 31st, the planet sets 80 mins after the Sun.
Venus shines brilliantly
as ‘Hesperus – the Evening Star’ throughout the whole of January, setting 4 hours after the Sun by the month’s end. It outshines every other stellar object in the night sky. At 18h mid-month it is an altitude of 13° in the SW amongst
the stars of Aquarius. On the 28th the crescent Moon with earthshine, together with Venus produce a pleasing celestial duo, 20°above the SW horizon at 18h. The two objects are 5° apart and almost parallel with the horizon. There is a close
conjunction between Venus and Neptune on the 27th; turn your binoculars towards Venus at around 19h and you may notice the very faint blue-ish white point of light to the upper right of Venus, some 5 mins of arc distant. A small telescope at low
power will certainly produce a better view of this conjunction between the brightest and the faintest major planets of the Solar System, from our point of view as seen from Earth. (Five minutes of arc is approx. one sixth of the Moon’s diameter.)
Throughout January, Mars, rises at around 05h, some three hours before the Sun, and may be found shining
as a +1.5 magnitude reddish coloured ‘star’ in the vicinity of Antares. The name Antares, given to the brightest star of Scorpius. means ‘rival of Mars’ and so you will be able to compare the two at around 07h mid-month when the two
objects may be seen within 10° of the SSE horizon. Mars is at the higher altitude but Antares is slightly brighter than Mars, but because of extinction (dimming) an effect due to the closeness of an object to the horizon Antares suffers more than Mars
as it is closer to the horizon; so the two will look to be of a similar magnitude, and both are decidedly red in colour. The waning crescent Moon with earthshine is approaching the pair at 07h on the 20th and will form a pretty trio as morning twilight
Jupiter ‘s superior conjunction with the Sun took place on the 27th December 2019 and is slowly beginning to emerge from
the vicinity of the Sun during January. By the end of this month it rises just over an hour before the Sun, and so may be seen low in the SE twilight at around 07h on the 29th, a few degrees above the SE horizon. You should be able to see it easily
with binoculars at that time at an altitude of 3°. However, be very careful not to continue to scan for too long as the Sun will be making its appearance in that direction, and under no circumstances should you gaze at the Sun through any optical instrument.
Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun at 15h on the 13th, and so will not be seen during January.
Uranus is an evening object in Aries, setting at around 02h on the 10th. Go to the Remote Planets page for the planet’s path amongst the stars during 2020. Uranus is on the threshold of naked
eye visibility of magnitude +6. Its diameter is 3.8 seconds of arc.
Much fainter, at visual magnitude +7.96, Neptune is in the constellation of
Aquarius with an angular diameterof 2.4 seconds of arc. To locate Neptune in the night sky, go to the Remote Planets page, as above, for a chart showing the planets’ path during 2020. By the end of the month, Neptune sets at 20h.
Pluto, in Sagittarius, is in conjunction with the Sun on January 13th at 13h. Its path amongst the stars is also to be found on the Remote Planets page
of these SkyNotes
Research has shown that the parent body of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower was an ‘asteroid’ 2003 EH1, which broke
up some 500 years ago. The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks at overnight on the 3rd/4th, with the normal limits of the shower running from the 28th of December to the 12thof January. A Zenithal Hourly Rate of up to
80 or more shooting stars an hour may be seen from the night hemisphere of the Earth. Conditions are favourable, this year, and the best numbers will be recorded in the early hours of the 4th. The radiant (point of origin) of these meteors lies
in the northern parts of the constellation Boötes just to the left of the “Handle” of the Plough, the site of a now defunct constellation which was called Quadrans Muralis, hence the name of the shower.
Constellations visible in the South, around midnight, mid-month are as follows: Gemini, Cancer, Canis Minor and the ‘head’ of Hydra.
times are GMT 1° is one finger width at arm’s length.
The phenomena of the month : January
Times are given in UT for SCARBOROUGH (0° 25' 0" W, 54° 16' 3" N, zone 0 = UT).
Hour Description of the phenomenon
yyyy mm dd hh:mm
2020 01 01 08:30 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 02 01:30 Moon at apogee (geocentric dist. = 404580 km)
2020 01 02 14:55 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2020 01 02 17:42 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 03 04:45 FIRST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 01 04
01:52 Meteor shower : Quadrantids (110 meteors/hour at zenith; duration = 16.0 days)
2020 01 04 23:26 Close encounter between the
Moon and Uranus (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 4.8°)
2020 01 05 07:00 The Earth at its perihelion (distance to the Sun = 0.98325 AU)
2020 01 05 14:31 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 06 17:17 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 07 15:16 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 01 07 19:44 Close encounter between the Moon and Aldebaran (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 2.4°)
2020 01 08 11:21 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 09 08:32 Opposition
of the asteroid 192 Nausikaa with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.305 AU; magn. = 10.0)
2020 01 09 13:53 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 01 09 17:12 Beginning of occultation of 13-mu Gem (magn. = 2.87)
2020 01 09 17:52 End of occultation of 13-mu Gem (magn. = 2.87)
2020 01 10 15:18 SUPERIOR CONJUNCTION of Mercury with
the Sun (geoc. dist. center to center = 1.9°)
2020 01 10 19:21 FULL MOON (penumbral eclipse of the Moon fully visible in SCARBOROUGH)
2020 01 11 01:39 Close encounter between the Moon and Pollux (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 5.8°)
2020 01 11 08:10 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 11 20:27 Beginning
of occultation of 33-eta Cnc (magn. = 5.33)
2020 01 11 20:40 End of occultation of 33-eta Cnc (magn. = 5.33)
2020 01 12 00:13 Close encounter between the Moon and M 44 (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 0.5°)
2020 01 12 02:05 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 13 13:19 CONJUNCTION between Pluto
and the Sun (geoc. dist. centre to centre = 0.7°)
2020 01 13 15:17 CONJUNCTION between Saturn and the Sun (geoc. dist. centre to centre =
2020 01 13 20:20 Moon at perigee (geocentric dist. = 365958 km)
2020 01 14 04:59 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 14 19:30 Maximum of the
variable star eta Aquilae
2020 01 15 08:18 Opposition of the asteroid 511 Davida with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.622 AU; magn. = 9.6)
2020 01 15 13:30 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
01 17 01:48 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 17 10:53 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 17 12:58 LAST QUARTER OF THE MOON
2020 01 18
05:59 Close encounter between Mars and Antares (topocentric dist. centre to centre = 4.7°)
2020 01 19 17:29 Maximum of the variable
star zeta Gemini
2020 01 19 22:38 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 21 09:04 Opposition of the asteroid 5 Astraea with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.101 AU; magn. = 8.9)
01 21 23:45 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 01 22 06:44 Close encounter between the Moon and M 8 (topocentric
dist. centre to centre = 0.7°)
2020 01 22 19:27 Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 22 19:41 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 23 00:04 Maximum of the
variable star khi Cygni
2020 01 23 06:27 Opposition of the asteroid 230 Athamantis with the Sun (dist. to the Sun = 2.407 AU; magn. = 10.4)
2020 01 24 21:42 NEW MOON
2020 01 25 16:16
Minimum of the variable star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 27 20:07 Close encounter between Venus and Neptune (topocentric dist. centre to centre
2020 01 28 04:29 Maximum of the variable star delta Cephei
2020 01 28 12:04 Minimum of the variable star beta Lyrae
2020 01 28 13:06 Minimum of the variable
star Algol (beta Persei)
2020 01 29 03:59 Maximum of the variable star eta Aquilae
2020 01 29 21:05 Maximum of the variable star zeta Gemini
2020 01 29 21:28 Moon at apogee
(geocentric dist. = 405393 km)
2020 01 31 09:55 Minimum of the variable star Algol(beta Persei)