Here is what to look for in the night sky in January.
December 2020 was a remarkable month for stargazing but now we have the whole new 2021 to look at the awe-inspiring astronomical events in the night sky, and January will give us a good headstart. With this said, grab your binoculars or telescope if you have one and get ready for the following special nights of January.
Quadrantid Meteor Shower (January 3 – 4)
Last year ended with several traditional meteor showers and as early as the first week of January 2021, we have the chance to see the first similar astronomical event.
Unfortunately, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower has already started but we are right about to catch its peak tonight between January 3 and 4.
If you go out in the early hours after midnight, you can expect to see approximately 40 meteors per hour.
The Conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury (January 9 – 12)
About two weeks ago, we saw perhaps the most important astronomical event of 2020, the Great Conjunction. As Saturn and Jupiter are now moving away from each other, we have a chance to see a beautiful triangle, formed with the help of Mercury.
The three planets will be visible together between January 9 and 12 but it will not be possible to see them unless you have a really good low view of the southwestern horizon and binoculars.
You will have to catch the right time and the whole astronomical event will not continue for long. The right time to search for the three planets is right after the sunset and the whole experience will last about an hour.
A Chance to See the Pleiades (all evenings in mid-January)
We recently wrote a piece on a new discovery about the history of the Pleiades. Now, you will have the chance to see the star cluster in the night sky in one of the most beautiful astronomical events of January 2021, if we consider it as one.
If you look at the sky without any additional devices, you will likely see the six blue stars that are currently visible at the forefront. However, if you happen to have a telescope, you will also see hundreds of other beautiful stars.
And if you want to know why the Pleiades are known as the Seven Sisters when you can only see six stars, see our piece on the topic.
Another Chance to see Mercury (January 24)
Chances are you haven’t seen Mercury before. If you fail to find it on the southwestern horizon in the early days of the month, you will have a better chance on January 24.
This is the best day to observe Mercury in its 88-day orbit around the Sun but you will need to follow these special instructions to catch it at the right time.
Of course, it will only be possible once the sun has set and while you may see it with the naked eye, I suggest you at least use binoculars. Look for it in the Western sky but it would be best if you have a low view to the southwestern horizon.
Full Wolf Moon (January 28)
What is one of the greatest things about the Moon? It is almost always there for us to enjoy. Moreover, it offers some spectacular sights on a regular basis.
This month, you can see the Full Wolf Moon but you will have to be looking at the right time and direction. Due to the fact that it will be fully illuminated by the Sun on the opposite side of the Earth, we will see it rise in orange, then yellow before it finally turns to its regular color.
For this, you will have to be there at the exact time of the moonrise looking at the eastern horizon.
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• Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events for Calendar Year 2021.
• Carter, J. (2020, December 24). Your Stargazing Guide To January 2021: A ‘Wolf Moon,’ A Five-Planet Finale And Year’s Best Constellations.
• Vaughan, C. (2021, January 01). Best night sky events of January 2021 (stargazing maps).