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 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.
January 25: Moon and Spica
The star Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo, will stand to the lower right of the Moon as they climb into good view after midnight tonight, and closer to the upper right of the Moon tomorrow night.
January 26: The Twins
The twins of Gemini climb high across the evening sky at this time of year. Pollux and Castor are well up in the east at nightfall, with Castor standing a little above its brighter “twin.”