The Sky Above You – January 2021

By Duncan Lunan

The Moon will be New on January 13th, and it will be Full on January 28th.  On the night of 25th-26th January the Moon will pass in front of the open cluster M35, near the western boundary of Gemini.

The planet Mercury reappears in January, passing below Saturn on the early evening of the 9th, below Jupiter on the 11th and between the Moon and Jupiter on the early evening of the 14th, with Saturn below to the right.   Mercury is at greatest elongation from the Sun on January 24th, becoming fainter thereafter as it draws away from us but still visible, setting at 6.15 p.m. at the end of the month.

Venus remains brilliant in the morning sky in Ophiucus.  The Moon is near Venus on 11th January.  In January Venus rises at 6.30 a.m., but disappears by the end of the month.

Mars is in Aries, and sets about 1.45 a.m. in January.   Following opposition in October, when it was at its nearest to us for 15 years, Mars is still brighter than all the stars except Sirius at the beginning of January, but becomes fainter as the Earth draws ahead of it.  Mars passes close to Uranus on January 21st, with the first-quarter Moon nearby.    

Jupiter moves into Capricornus in January and is between Saturn and Mercury on January 14th, with the Moon to the left of them in the early evening as above.   By January 29th Jupiter has disappeared into conjunction on the far side of the Sun.

Saturn remains close to Jupiter.  By January Saturn sets at 5.45 p.m., near Jupiter and Mercury to the right of the Moon on the early evening of the 14th, and by the 24th Saturn is already out of sight, in conjunction on the far side of the Sun.

Uranus is in Aries, setting about 1.45 a.m. in January, appearing to reverse direction against the stars as Earth moves away from it after opposition in October.  Mars passes Uranus on January 21st.   

Neptune in Aquarius sets about 9.15 p.m., passed by the Moon on the 17th.

The Quadrantid meteors, radiating from near the Plough, will peak around 2nd and 3rd January, although the fainter ones will be spoiled by a waning gibbous Moon in Leo, so the best time to see them might be the early evening of the 3rd.

Between 1st and 5th January, Comet Atlas, which passed the Orion Nebula on November 7th, is expected to make a close pass around the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga.   It will be below naked-eye visibility, 9th to 10th magnitude, but might still be found with binoculars – probably best in early evening or early morning, because it will be directly overhead at 10.30 p.m..

Meanwhile my space travel stories, old and new, have now been collected and published by Other Side Books as From the Moon to the Stars, relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, and The Other Side of the Interface, with a wider scope.  

Both have illustrations by Sydney Jordan, and are available through Amazon or through bookshops.  Details of them and my other books are on my website,

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