This is a month for planets. All five of the planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye put in good appearances. Mercury is at its best for the year, not just because it’s bright but because it pairs up with Venus, the Evening Star, for several nights. Mars looks down on them. Jupiter is in view for most of the night, while Saturn climbs higher into the morning sky.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
January 27: Longer Days
The days are getting longer. Residents of Seattle, for example, will see about an hour of daylight more today than on the winter solstice. The difference is smaller at more southerly latitudes. From Dallas, for example, it’s only about a half-hour.
January 28: Moon and Aldebaran
The bull keeps a close eye on the Moon tonight. Aldebaran, the bright orange star that represents the eye of Taurus, stands to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. The Moon will move closer to the star during the night.
January 29: Meteor Plots
Several extremely weak meteor showers rain into the night sky at this time of year. All of them are puny, but they add up. Under dark skies, you can expect to see a handful of meteors just about any night of the year.
January 30: Winter Circle
The Moon passes through the middle of one of the largest “asterisms” in the sky the next couple of nights: the Winter Circle. It contains several of the night sky’s brightest stars, but it is so spread out that it’s hard to take in all at once.
January 31: Celestial Equator
Orion climbs high across the south this evening. Look for his three-star belt, which forms a short diagonal line. The star at the top of the belt lies along the celestial equator, which is the projection of Earth’s equator into the sky.
February 1: Brackets
The two brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon bracket the early evening sky. Venus, the “evening star,” is low in the west as darkness falls. At the same time, the slightly fainter planet Jupiter is about the same height in the east.
February 2: Moon and Jupiter
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, stands well to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star, outshining all the true stars in the night sky.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.