Monthly Sky Report - January 2006
To find the planets, bright stars and groups, you need to know the compass
directions where you watch the sky. Lacking a compass, you can use the
sun at the start, middle and end of the day. As you face the rising sun
- it will be rising to the South of East. In mid day (around noon), look
at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set to the South
During January, there is an average of 9 hours and 40 minutes of sunlight
each day. During January, the sunsets advance from a little after 5 to
about 5:30 p.m. Sunrises don't change as much from 7:35 p.m. early in
the month to about 7:25 p.m. at month's end. Stars begin to fade away
an hour before sunrise and the star groups come into view an hour after
sunset. The very bright planet Mars shines with a yellowish sheen in the
southern evening sky. Bright planets like Mars have a starlike appearance
but shine steadily in contrast to the twinkling bright stars. There are
two very bright evening stars; golden Capella gleams in the Northeast
while white-blue Sirius sparkles in the Southeast. High in the sky is
the 7 Sisters or Pleiades star cluster, resembling a tangle of fireflies.
In evening, the planet Saturn can be seen low in the East.
for Early January
On New Year's Day, a slender crescent moon appears to the right of the
brilliant planet Venus low in the southwestern dusk. The moon grows to
half full by the 6th. This is best time of the month to view the moon's
surface features with binoculars or telescope. On January 8th, the moon
appears near the planet Mars in the southwestern evening sky. On January
10th, the moon appears near Aldeberan, the star marking the eye of Taurus.
The early predawn hours on January 3rd will feature a meteor shower called
the Quadrantids. On January 4th, the Earth is closest to the sun for the
year at a distance of 91.4 million miles.
for Mid January
The evening moon moves from the star group Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo
and into Virgo from January 10th through the 20th. The moon grows to full
on January 13th, then appearing near the bright stars of Gemini. Pisces,
through Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and into Leo from December 10th
through the 20th. The full moon of January is called the Moon After Yule,
shining all through the long winter night. On January 15th, the moon appears
near the planet Saturn. The next evening, the moon appears near Regulus,
the star marking Leo's heart.
for Late January
The moon has moved into the early morning sky, allowing better viewing
of the fainter evening sights. On January 23rd, the moon appears near
the bright planet Jupiter high in the southeastern dawn sky. On January
26th and 27th, the crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet
Venus low in the southeastern dawn. The star group Orion peaks in the
South around 9 p.m. in late January. Orion's trademark is his belt of
three stars in a row. The brilliant star Sirius dominates the southern
evening sky, appearing to the left and below Orion. On January 27th, the
planet Saturn appears opposite the sun, rising at sunset and hanging in
the sky all night long. Saturn is then closest to the Earth for the year
at a distance of 756 million miles. Light then reaching us from Saturn
takes over an hour to travel between the two planets. As January ends,
a slender crescent moon appears low in the southwestern dusk. The first
sighting of the moon in Mecca will trigger Muslim New Year 1427.
The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their meeting on Friday, January
20th at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested sky gazers
be a free 2006 sky calendar available to visitors at the Sunday Planetarium
programs at Frostburg State University at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Call the Frostburg
State Planetarium at (301) 687-4270 and press 4 to receive a free planetarium
brochure which includes a map of how to reach the planetarium.