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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 21: M35

The star cluster M35 is in the east at nightfall, at the feet of Gemini. Although the cluster is more than 2,500 light-years away, under dark skies it’s visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy blob of light. Binoculars enhance the view.

January 22: Procyon

Procyon, the leading light of the little dog, is in the east at nightfall and high in the south around midnight. It consists of two stars. One of them is big, bright, and nearing the end of its “normal” lifetime. The other is tiny, faint, and dead.

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.

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.