The year’s first month ends with perhaps the best skywatching show of the year, as the Moon passes through Earth’s shadow, creating a total lunar eclipse. The nights leading up to the eclipse provide plenty of beautiful sights, though. Mars and Jupiter are climbing higher into the morning sky, and snuggle close together for several days. Orion climbs high across the south during the evening hours, with its belt pointing toward Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
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In the Sky This Month
January 13: River’s End
The brightest star of Eridanus, the celestial river, is at the river’s southern tip. In fact, the name Achernar means “river’s end.” It stands near Rigel, the bright star that marks the foot of Orion, which is in the southeast at nightfall.
January 14: Eridanus
If you look south two or three hours after sunset tonight, you’ll be gazing into Eridanus, the river, one of the largest of the 88 constellations. It’s long and winding, and not easy to see.
January 15: Double Cluster
A few of the constellations of autumn still offer some nice evening sights. One example is Perseus, which stands high in the north in mid evening. One of its most beautiful sights is the Double Cluster — two star clusters that appear side by side.
January 16: Epsilon Eridani
The star Epsilon Eridani is fairly faint, but under dark skies, it is visible to the unaided eye to the west of Orion. It stands well up in the south in early evening. The star is host to at least one planet, and perhaps more.
January 17: Stellar Cascade
Few of the stars of Camelopardalis, the giraffe, are visible to the unaided eye. With binoculars, though, you can pick out several pretty sights. One is Kemble’s Cascade, a string of about 20 stars along the giraffe’s neck.
January 18: Bright Stars
Winter nights abound with some of the brightest stars in the sky: Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion, Aldebaran in Taurus, Sirius in Canis Major (the big dog), and Procyon in Canis Minor (the little dog), to name but a few.
January 19: Crescent Moon
The Moon was new on Tuesday as it passed between Earth and the Sun. Today the Moon has moved away from the Sun, but it still lines up in the Sun’s general direction. At that angle, the Moon form a thin crescent, which is low in the southwest at sunset.