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In the Sky This Month

Four of the five naked-eye planets line up in the western evening sky at nightfall as the month begins, but two of them quickly drop from view. Only Saturn and Jupiter will be around by January’s end. In the meantime, bold, beautiful Orion takes center stage in the early evening sky, with Sirius, the night sky’s leading light, not far away.

January 23: Moon and Spica

Tonight, the Moon pays a call on Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo. Spica is below or to the lower right of the Moon as they climb into good view, after midnight, and closer to the Moon at first light.

January 24: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon will be at last-quarter tomorrow morning, which means it is three-quarters of the way through its monthly cycle of phases. Sunlight will illuminate half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

January 25: Zubenelgenubi

The star Zubenelgenubi huddles close to the right or upper right of the Moon early tomorrow. The star’s name means “the southern claw,” and tells us that the star once represented one of the claws of nearby Scorpius.

January 26: Moon and Antares

Several future supernovas are in good view. Betelgeuse, in Orion the hunter, is high in the south at nightfall. Antares, the heart of the scorpion, is close to the Moon at first light the next two days. Both stars could explode within the next 100,000 years.

January 27: Veil Nebula

The Veil Nebula is in Cygnus, which is low in the west and northwest at nightfall. The nebula is along the swan’s left wing. The Veil is the remnant of a giant star that blasted itself to bits. The explosion probably took place about 20,000 years ago.

January 28: The Spirograph

The Spirograph Nebula is in Lepus, the hare, which bounds below the feet of Orion, in the southern sky on winter evenings. It is a colorful bubble of gas and dust sculpted by a dying star. It resembles the geometric shapes produced by the old children’s toy.

January 29: Auriga

Auriga, the charioteer, rides high across winter’s evening skies. To find it, look for its brightest star, Capella, which stands high overhead in mid-evening. Capella is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and shines pale yellow.

New MoonNew January 2, 12:33 pm

First QuarterFirst January 9, 12:11 pm

Full MoonFull January 17, 5:48 pm

Last quarterLast January 25, 7:42 am

New MoonNew January 31, 11:46 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee January 1, 30

Apogee January 14

The full Moon of January is known as the Old Moon, Moon After Yule, or Wolf Moon.