Some of the brightest stars in the sky decorate the long, cold nights of January. Beautiful Orion is in view almost all night, trailed by Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. All five planets that are visible to the unaided eye are in view as well, adding to the beauty of winter nights.
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In the Sky This Month
January 20: More Fornax
The constellation Fornax, which is low in the south at nightfall, has only one modestly bright star, Alpha Fornacis. Binoculars show that it consists of two stars. One is bigger and heavier than the Sun, while the other is smaller than the Sun.
January 21: Leading the Dog
Two “dog stars” hunker low in the east and southeast as night falls at this time of year. From most of the U.S. one of them, Procyon, rises a bit before the Dog Star Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. The name Procyon means “before the dog.”
January 22: Moon, Antares, Saturn
The crescent Moon will slide past several bright companions over the next few mornings. Tomorrow, the bright orange star Antares is to the lower right of the Moon at first light, with the golden planet Saturn to the lower left of the Moon.
January 23: Moon and Saturn
Saturn is part of a beautiful pairing in the pre-dawn sky tomorrow. The giant planet looks like a fairly bright golden star, quite close to the lower right of the crescent Moon. A telescope will reveal Saturn’s rings.
January 24: Moon and Mercury
As twilight begins to paint the dawn sky tomorrow, a couple of planets appear near the crescent Moon. Saturn stands to the upper right of the Moon, with little Mercury below the Moon. Mercury is best seen from southern latitudes.
January 25: Shocking Star
Camelopardalis, the giraffe, is high in the north this evening. One of its brightest stars, Alpha Cam, is hot, bright, and heavy. It blows a strong wind into space, which creates a bow shock as the star plows through surrounding gas and dust.
January 26: Kemble’s Cascade
To the eye alone, Camelopardalis, the giraffe, is a dud. Only a few of its stars are visible to the unaided eye. Binoculars, however, reveal several pretty sights. One example is Kemble’s Cascade, a string of about 20 stars along the giraffe’s neck.