Make your own free website on


The Sky This Month
The Sky This Month
Dobsonian Project
Just For Kids
A Brief History Of Astronomy
So You Want To Buy A Telescope
Recommended Products
Getting Started In Astrophotography
Astrophotography examples
Our Solar System
Viewing Tips
What Is That?
Monthly Star Charts
The Exact Time
Related Links
In the News
Photo Gallery
Contact Me
Ask the Nut

What The Heavens Hold This Month 

Sky Calendar
January 2006
All times ET unless noted
By Larry Sessions

Sky Calendar
For January 2006
All times EST

Friday, 12/30
New Moon, 10:12 p.m.

New Moons can't be seen, but look for a crescent Moon after sunset on Sunday.

Sunday, 1/1
Moon / Venus, 5:00 a.m.

The Moon passes about 718' (roughly 14 full moon diameters) to the South (left) of Venus, this is very hard to see. About a half hour after sunset, the two are only 10-15 degrees above the southwest horizon. The very thin crescent Moon is a challenge.

Sunday, 1/1
Moon at Perigee, 6:00 p.m.

Perigee is the closest point to Earth (361,750 km or 224781 miles this time) in any given orbit. Since this comes near the time of New Moon (12/30 at 10:12 p.m. EST), when the Sun and Moon are aligned, there may be higher than usual tides (perigean tides). (The next perigee. on 1/30, is slightly closer.) This also comes at near the same time as Earth's perihelion (1/4), perhaps giving a very slight enhancement to the Sun's gravitational effect on the tides.

Tuesday, 1/3
Quadrantid Meteors, 1:00 p.m.

Unfortunately the peak comes during daylight, but the radiant (roughly between Hercules and Ursa Major) is high in the northeast sky several hours before sunrise.

Wednesday 1/4
Perihelion, 10:00 a.m.

Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, but an ellipse that brings us sometimes closer, sometimes farther away from the Sun. Surprisingly to many, the closest point, called the perihelion, comes in early January. This year it is at noon Eastern today, when the Earth is 147,103,600 km or 91,405,939 miles from the solar furnace. This may seem counterintuitive since for us in the Northern Hemisphere it is colder when in fact we are closer to the Sun. What this shows, however, is that Earth's seasons are not due to changing distances to the Sun. The seasons are due to the varying tilt of Earth toward (summer) or away from (winter) the Sun.

Friday, 1/6
First Quarter, 1:56 p.m.

The First Quarter Moon rises at around noon, so look for it in the early afternoon eastern sky. By sunset, it is high in the southern heavens.

Sunday, 1/8
Moon / Mars, 2:50 p.m.

The two are separated by 121', but unfortunately this occurs in daylight. However the two are still fairly close in the Western heavens at night fall. Mars is below (South of) the Moon.

Monday 1/9
Moon Pleiades, 9:00 p.m.

Moon passes the southern edge of the Pleiades. The Moon of course drowns out many of the faint stars, but it is an interesting view. If you miss this event, don't worry as similar passes happen several times this year. On April Fool's day the Moon is a thin evening Crescent, and on July 20 it is a few days before New Moon in the morning sky.

Friday, 1/13
Venus at Inferior conjunction, 6:52 p.m.

Inferior conjunction basically means that the planet passes between the Earth and Sun. It cannot be seen, but this marks the transition of Venus from the evening sky to the morning sky.

Saturday, 1/14
Full Moon, 4:48 a.m.

According to Kim Long's "The Moon Book" (Johnson Books, Boulder),t eh first Full Moon after the winter solstice was known as the "Frost in the Tipi Moon" by the Lakota, the "Wolf Moon" by the Algonquin, and the "Great Spirit Moon" by the Ojibway Peoples of North America.

Sunday, 1/15
Moon / Saturn, 8:10 a.m.

At this time the two are separated by 347'. Unfortunately, this happens after sunrise in many locations. However, the two are separated by about 7-8 degrees, low in the East-Northeast, a few hours after sunset. Saturn is to the upper right of the Moon.

Saturday, 1/21
Moon / Spica, 5:00 p.m.

As in December, the Moon passes very near (just over a half degree) and from parts of Asia actually occults (eclipses) Spica. Unfortunately, this occurs in daytime for North America, but they are fairly close before dawn on Saturday.

Sunday, 1/22
Last Quarter, 10:13 a.m.

Look in the southern or southwest sky after dawn. Last Quarter Moons rise at roughly midnight and set at roughly noon.

Wednesday, 1/25
Moon / Antares, 7:00 a.m.

The Moon passes just a couple of minutes of arc from Antares, but this is after sunrise in many locations. Try observing before dawn. From parts of South America the Moon occults (eclipses) this bright star.

Thursday, 1/26
Mercury at Superior conjunction, 4:46 p.m.

Superior conjunction is when Mercury (or Venus) are aligned with the Sun, but on the far side of the Sun from Earth. Due to the Sun's glare, this event cannot be seen, but it marks the time at which the planet moves from the morning sky to the evening sky.

Friday, 1/27
Saturn at opposition, 5:41 p.m.

Opposition means that the planet is opposite the Sun in the sky, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise, much like the Full Moon.

Sunday, 1/29
New Moon, 9:14 a.m.

No Moon can be seen, but try after sunset on Monday and Tuesday.

Monday, 1/30
Moon at Perigee, 3:00 a.m.

Perigee, or closest point to Earth, this time is 357,778 km or 222,312 miles. Since this comes so close to New Moon, there will be higher than usual tides (perigean tides). See 1/1.

Tuesday, 1/31
Saturn passes Beehive

Although it has been close for some time (and since Saturn is the slowest moving naked-eye planet, remains close for some time to come), the Ringed planet is just about a half degree from the Beehive star cluster in Cancer tonight.

Sunday, 2/5
First Quarter, 1:28 a.m.

As with all First Quarter Moons, this one rises at roughly noon, is well-placed in the South at sunset, and sets at roughly midnight.

[Note: data for this calendar has been derived from a number of sources including the Observer’s Handbook 2005 of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Starry Night software, and others.]

Planets Visible Now
For January 2006

Unless you catch it very early in the morning before dawn, forget about Mercury this month. It is in superior conjunction on the 26th.

Venus takes a nose dive in the glare of the setting Sun early in the month, heading toward a January 14 inferior conjunction. Early risers may catch it the East-southeastern sky shortly before sunrise by the third week of the month.

Mars is still well placed for observing, high in the South at nightfall, in Aries. However, its angular diameter (from 12 to 9 seconds of arc) and magnitude (from -0.6 to +0.2) both diminish.

Jupiter, now in Libra, rises several hours before the Sun and is well placed in the southeastern sky by the time of morning twilight. The magnitude is about -1.9.

Still in Cancer, Saturn rises not long after sunset. It is roughly between Pollux in Cancer and Regulus in Leo, and currently very near Cancer's famed Beehive cluster (M44). Opposite the Sun on the 27th (opposition), it is up all night. The magnitude is about -0.1.

Planet info provided by Larry Sessions