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January Sky chart. Northern Hemisphere gazer's guide

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All Month: Four planets stretch from the sun to the right in the morning sky. Too bad we can't see them in daylight; their machinations would be more interesting to watch. As it is, we will miss the first two, Venus and Mercury, entirely; they rise too late to be seen. But Saturn and Mars put on a fair show, especially from the 4th to the 8th, when the moon cavorts among them. Saturn and Mars are the only planets we can see with ease in January. Mars is still a bit dim, but its position relative to Saturn and Spica helps. Its more rapid easterly motion takes it closer to Saturn, which it passes in late February, but the best will come in late spring and early summer, when Mars's opposition (from the sun) makes it rival Jupiter in brightness. As for Jupiter itself, we have a fair shot at it during its waning days as an evening star, low in the southwest shortly after sundown, but it's too low for viewing late in the month.

Events in the calendar below are given in local time unless indicated otherwise.

Jan. 1: Moonlight welcomes revelers home this morning. The gibbous moon, rising after 10 tonight, is four days past full.

Jan. 1-15: Best opportunity to find Halley's comet from mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, with no moonlight to interfere. The dim, small comet is drifting slowly to the right south of Pegasus. Better use binoculars; sweep below the head and neck of Pegasus. The comet sets about three hours after darkness begins on the 1st, about one hour on the 15th.

Jan. 2: Earth is nearest the sun for the year (perihelion).

Jan. 3: Last quarter moon, in Virgo, climbs up the sky after midnight with the spring stars, just ahead of bright Spica.

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