NASA is back with its monthly preview of what to look out for in the night sky.
January offers some real crackers, including a parade of planets, a winter dazzle of stars, and even a comet.
Throughout the month of January, you’ll be able to spot four planets at the same time, with the naked eye (weather permitting, of course).
First, try to seek out Mars in the east, identifiable by its salmon-pink color. Then, look out for the bright light of Jupiter overhead, and Saturn in the southwest, close to Venus.
January’s crisp, winter nights offer a great chance for folks in the Northern Hemisphere to spot bright stars and constellations.
“There’s Orion the hunter; the big dog constellation Canis Major; and the lesser known little dog, Canis Minor with its bright star Procyon,” NASA explained on its website.
“Y-shaped Taurus, the bull, includes the bright Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. And just east of Orion, you’ll find the bright stars Castor and Pollux, which form the heads of the twins in Gemini.”
Again, if you’re having trouble picking out the features, fire up your astronomy app.
The entirety of January offers folks in the Northern Hemisphere the exciting chance to spot a comet hurtling across the sky (those in the Southern Hemisphere can see it in February).
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is observable with binoculars or a telescope in the predawn sky, moving swiftly toward the northwest.
Currently passing through the inner solar system, the comet was first sighted in March 2021 when it was already inside the orbit of Jupiter. C/2022 E3 (ZTF) will make its closest approach to the sun on January 12, and come closest to Earth on February 2.
“Comets are notoriously unpredictable, but if this one continues its current trend in brightness, it’ll be easy to spot with binoculars, and it’s just possible it could become visible to the unaided eye under dark skies,” NASA said.
NASA describes the event as an “awesome opportunity to make a personal connection with an icy visitor from the distant outer solar system.”
It added that the astronomy apps should offer details on the comet’s position for the specific date that you’re looking skyward.
- NASA’s skywatching tips for November include a meteor shower
- NASA’s skywatching tips for September include rare glimpse of ‘zodiacal light’
- Weird white dwarf is hydrogen on one side and helium on the other
- NASA’s skywatching tips for July feature stars called Regulus and Fomalhaut
- NASA’s June skywatching tips include Mars in the Beehive