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NASA’s top skywatching tips for January include a meteor shower

NASA focuses on four particular treats for folks peering skyward in January.

What's Up: January 2022 Skywatching Tips from NASA

Winter Circle

Kick-off 2022 by marveling at the stars of the Winter Circle (also known as the Winter Hexagon) as they shine brightly in the night sky.

The best time to pop outside (or stick your head out of the window if it’s just too cold outdoors) is around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. all next week. Looking south on a clear night, you’ll be able to spot the Winter Circle together with the Pleiades and Orion.

The Winter Circle stars.

Quadrantid meteor shower

On the night of Sunday, January 2, and through to the early hours of Monday, you’ll have a chance to enjoy what NASA describes as “one of the better meteor showers of the year.”

The Quadrantid meteor shower, like any event of this nature, is best viewed from a dark location well away from bright city lights. Facing toward the northeast, look up and try to locate the constellation Boötes, the spot from where the meteors appear to radiate. The map below should help, though any one of these excellent astronomy apps will also point the way.

A map showing the location of the Quadrantids meteor shower.

The moon with Jupiter and Mars

On Wednesday, January 5, you can witness the moon close to a very bright Jupiter by looking southwest after sunset. “The two will be only about 4 degrees apart, which should make them appear together through most binoculars,” NASA says.

Finally, on Saturday, January 29, early risers will be treated to the sight of the moon appearing to be in close proximity to Mars, with Venus also within the field of view.

“Having left the evening skies last month, Venus is now rising before the sun as the ‘Morning Star.’” NASA explains, adding: “Now, Mars is slowly returning to view after passing behind the sun over the past few months.”

Anyone following NASA’s current Mars mission will recall that the orbits of Earth and the red planet recently put them on opposite sides of the sun, prompting the team to pause the mission for a couple of weeks due to the brief deterioration of the communications link.

NASA notes that Mars will continue to become more brilliant over the coming months and transition to a higher point in the sky, coming close to Saturn and Jupiter in the process.

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Trevor Mogg
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