The dawn sky features the two brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon: the planets Venus and Jupiter. Venus is the brilliant Morning Star, while Jupiter, which is much bigger but also much farther, is not quite as dazzling. The Moon passes them twice during the month, adding to the early morning spectacle. Between those encounters, the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse.
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In the Sky This Month
January 18: Supermoon
A supermoon is coming on Sunday night. The Moon will be full only half a day before it reaches its closest point to Earth, so it will look a bit bigger and brighter than average. It coincides with a total lunar eclipse, as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow.
January 19: Lambda Draconis
Lambda Draconis, the star at the end of the tail of Draco, the dragon, is puffing up. It is about 70 times wider than the Sun and almost 900 times brighter. The star is low in the north at nightfall, with the rest of the dragon stretching to its left.
January 20: Lunar Eclipse
A total lunar eclipse will shine through American skies tonight. It gets under way at 9:34 p.m. CST, when the lunar disk first touches Earth’s dark inner shadow. It will take the Moon about an hour to become fully immersed in the shadow, creating the total eclipse.
January 21: Gamma Cass
Gamma Cassiopeiae, the middle point of the letter M or W formed by Cassiopeia, is a busy star system. The main star is surrounding itself with a disk of gas and dust, it’s interacting with an invisible companion, and it’s building up to an impressive demise.
January 22: Moon and Regulus
The star Regulus stands just a whisker away from the Moon tonight. They climb into good view by about 8:30 or 9 p.m., with the lion’s bright heart to the right of the Moon.
January 23: Milky Way Mapping
Textbook views of the Milky Way show a bar of stars in the middle with several spiral arms wrapping around it. But that picture is incomplete. In fact, astronomers are still trying to develop a complete and accurate diagram of our home galaxy.
January 24: Venus and Jupiter
The planets Venus and Jupiter, the brightest points of light in the night sky, will stand side by side in the southeast at dawn tomorrow. Venus is the brighter of the two, with Jupiter to its left. The star Antares is farther along the same line.