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January 2019

Sky Report - January 2019

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Emeritus Faculty
Dr. Doyle taught and was Planetarium Director at Frostburg State University for over 40 years

First Quarter of January (Jan 1-7)

Local sunrise is about 7:36 a.m. and sunset about 5:03 p.m. Sunlight at beginning of January lasts 9.4 hours. By the end of January, sunlight will last 10.1 hours. On January 3rd, the Earth is closest to the sun for the year at a distance of 91.5 million miles. The reason for the seasons is due to the Earth’s tilted axis, which is tipped away from the sun in early winter. This causes the sun’s sky path to be low, reducing the amount of sunlight. The moon in early January is a crescent in the morning sky, moving from the morning to the evening side of the sun on January 5. The only evening planet that you can see is Mars, seen about a third of the way up in the South at dusk. At dawn in early January, three planets are easy to see – the brilliant planet Venus in the southeast, the bright planet Jupiter nearby and innermost planet Mercury low in the southeastern dawn below and to the left of Venus and Jupiter.

Second Quarter of January (Janc 8-16)

Local sunrise is about 7:36 a.m. and sunset about 5:11 p.m. Sunlight then lasts 9.6 hours. The star group Orion is glorious in the Southeast evening sky with his three star belt. The belt points down and left to Sirius, the night’s brightest star. Sirius is also the closest night star that we can see from most of the U.S. The crescent moon will appear under the planet Mars on Saturday evening, January 12th. On Monday, January 14th, the moon will appear about half full in the southwestern evening sky. Along the left edge of the moon, the sun there is rising, lighting up the crater rims and elevations. So during the middle of January, the moon will be at its best for spotting the craters with a telescope. Mars remains as the only planet in the evening sky, appearing in the South in the early evening. There are three planets in the southeastern dawn sky. There’s brilliant Venus, bright Jupiter and the planet Saturn below and to the left.

Third Quarter of January (Jan 17-24)

Local sunrise is about 7:32 a.m. with sunset about 5:20 p.m. Daily sunlight then lasts 9.8 hours. The big sky event in January is a total lunar eclipse starting Saturday evening on January 20. From 10:37 to 11:41 p.m. the moon will creep into the Earth’s deep shadow. The middle of the eclipse will be 12:12 a.m., Sunday, January 21. The moon will start to creep out of the Earth’s shadow at 12:44 a.m. The moon will be completely free of the Earth’s deep shadow at 1:51 a.m. In the middle of the evening (9 p.m.), Orion with his three star belt will be halfway up in the South. Nearly overhead is the bright golden star Capella. High in the Southwest is the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster, resembling a tiny dipper. In the North Northeast is the Big Dipper, standing on its handle. In the southeastern dawn sky, the brilliant planet Venus and Jupiter appear close. The Big Dipper is then high in the North with its handle arcing to the bright golden star Arcturus.

Last Quarter of January (Jan 25-31)

Local sunrise is about 7:27 a.m. and sunset about 5:29 p.m. Sunlight at the end of January lasts 10.1 hours. The planet Mars remains the solitary evening planet. The three morning planets are brilliant Venus, bright Jupiter and Saturn. At the end of January, the crescent moon will appear in between Venus and Jupiter. In the eastern evening sky is Leo, the Lion. The brightest star of Leo is Regulus, which means ‘little king’. Regulus is part of the sickle of Leo, an agricultural tool with a curved blade ending in a handle. To come, Leo’s sickle resembles a backward question mark. The sun appears in front of the stars of Leo during the hottest days of the summer, from August 15 to September 10.

For a free copy of my 2019 Night Sky Highlights, send an email to This lists sunrise and sunset times for every Sunday, the moon-planet line ups and the moon’s main phases for 2019, all on 2 pages.

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