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Astronomy a Go Go! January Sky Tour

This tool displays the approximate Moon phases for a given month(images are close approximations). For official phase times and dates for this month and past months are available from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Astronomical Online Glossary

Download this month's sky map! is our favorite monthly skymap provider. Download either the Northern hemisphere, Equatorial, or Southern Hemisphere sky map so you can follow along with our viewing sessions.
Creator: Kym Thalassoudis


Southern Hemisphere Additional Information

As Astronomy a Go Go! finds its home in the higher Northern latitudes those of you who live south of the equator will benefit from these two Southern Hemisphere sites: Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Calendar RASNZ site (absolutely outstanding) and
Southern Sky Watch.


January Planets
(click images to enlarge)


Mars and the Hexagon

Flame Nebula, Alnitak, Horsehead Nebula

  • Mercury- moving into inferior conjunction on the 4th and moving into the morning sky later in the month 2.9 mag (1st) to -0.0 (21st)
  • Venus- too close to the Sun for reliable viewing passing through superior conjunction on the 11th moving into the evening sky -4.0 mag (1st) to -4.0 mag (21st)
  • Mars- in Western Leo (between Cancer and Leo) visible most of the night (yeah!). In opposition on the 29th 5.5 light minutes from Earth. Closest to Earth on the 27th. -0.8 mag (1st) to -1.2 mag (21st)
  • Jupiter- low on the western horizon after sunset moving from Capricorn to Aquarius. Starts the month out near Neptune before heading quickly eastward -2.1 mag (1st) to -2.0 mag (21st)
  • Saturn- in Virgo all month rising after midnight and about 4 hours after Mars. Time to start watching for a return of the ring (yessss my Precious)through 2010. 1.1 mag (1st) to 1.1 mag (21st)
  • Uranus- Hovering just inside the Aquarius side of the Aquarius/Pisces border crossing back into Pisces in mid-January 5.7 mag (1st) to 5.7 mag (21st)
  • Neptune- In Capricorn all month. Jupiter slides eastward south of Neptune with a close, moon-less encounter on Dec. 24-25 7.9 mag (1st) to 7.9 mag (21st)

Astronomical Highlights for January 2010

Days and Times in UT: (help with time)
Observations are for 8 pm for Northern Hemisphere and 10 pm for the Southern Hemisphere.
Today's sunrise and sunset times or plan ahead using the US Naval Observatory Website

Occultation information can be found at the IOTA website!

1 - Moon at perigee (closest to the Earth 358,682 km) Large Tides
3 - Earth at perihelion (closest to the Sun 147097907 km)
- Quandrantids meteor shower (too much Moon)
4 - Mercury at inferior conjunction
6 - Moon near Saturn
7 - Last Quarter
11 - Antares 1.1 deg S of Moon possible occultation (check the IOTA website check the event for your area)
15 - New Moon (7:11 UT)
- Annular solar eclipse (check here for visibility from your location)
17 - Moon at apogee (furtherest from Earth 406,435 km)
18 - Moon near Jupiter
23 - First Quarter Moon
25 - Moon near Pleiades (early evening)
27 - Mars nearest to Earth at 19:02 UT (99.3 million km from Earth)
29 - Mars at opposition visible all night
30 - Full Moon (largest in 2010)
- Moon at perigee (356593 km) Large Tides

Date information courtesy of: RASC Observer's Handbook,, Astronomical Calendar 2009, CalSky, sunrise and sunset times for your home*
Comparative lengths of day and night

Monthly Messier*

This month on the tour we will be attempting several of the most difficult objects in the Catalog, a small faint planetary nebula, and a pair of face on spiral galaxies. Also featured this month is a small, but fairly bright galaxy and three open clusters. You will need binoculars and a telescope to fully enjoy the January tour.

M33 - This is a very large (about the size of the full moon) face on spiral galaxy in the constellation Triangulum. The total light from M33 is about magnitude 5.3, but when spread out over its large area it yields a very low surface brightness. The best and easiest views of M33 can be found with a pair of binoculars. Look for a large, round hazy patch of light with little detail at first glance. M33 can be glimpsed with the naked eye in dark clear skies. Finding M33 in a telescope can be a challenge because of its size. Use the widest field eyepiece you have and look for a change in light level to identify the galaxy.
M103 - This is a fairly small, sparse open cluster in Cassiopeia. Look for a tight group of stars in binoculars, being careful not to mistake it for several other clusters in the same area. Through a telescope the cluster is very sparse, four bright stars amidst the slight glow of much fainter companions.
M52 - This rich open cluster in Cassiopeia is fairly easy to see in binoculars as a faint smudge of light. A small to mid telescope will begin to resolve this cluster. Look for a triangular patch of light with some stars clearly resolved, but most of the cluster members provide only a hint of graininess.
M76 - Known as the little dumbbell, this planetary nebula in Perseus is one of the dimmest objects in the Catalog. Look for a small, faint, oblong patch of light. Not a very obvious object, if you don't see it at first try varying magnifications in an attempt to bring it out. Fortunately M76 is located near a bright star which aids in locating the correct field to search.
M34 - This is a large and bright, but sparse open cluster located in Perseus. Visible as a faint patch of light to the naked eye, it is very obvious and easy to resolve in binoculars. In fact, binoculars provide a better view of this cluster than most telescopes.
M74 - This galaxy in Pisces is a smaller and fainter version of M33, a face on spiral galaxy with low surface brightness. M74 is arguably the most difficult object to find in the Catalog. You will need very dark, clear skies to easily see it, anything less than perfect conditions will make M74 nearly impossible to find. Look for a very faint fuzzy star, which is the bright central condensation, surrounded by a very faint glow. Try all of your tricks on this one; star hop to the correct field, try varying magnification, tap the scope to detect the galaxy through its motion. If all of the above fail, try again another night or seek darker skies.
M77 - This is a small faint galaxy in Cetus. Possible to see in binoculars, but very difficult, look for a faint fuzzy star. Through a telescope look for a fuzzy, oval shaped patch of light, bright in the center, fading towards the edges.

From the Astronomical Connection and the Moncton Center in Canada

From the Tony Cecce, Corning, NY - Twelve Month Tour of The Messier Catalog

Bright(er) Comets for January 2010

More comet information at Seiichi Yoshida's comet website. Also checkout Gary Kronk's comet and meteor pages
Skyhound Comet pages

Historical and Current Events

...Did you know?

Mark has developed his own website so let's all trot on over and see the pages of wonderful history he has for us this month!

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or write us a favorable review in iTunes of Podcast Pickle or iPodder!


Music B.D. Lenz Quartet -"Lazy Bones"
Greg Federico- "Beneath the Stars"
Boom Boom Beckett- "In a Sentimental Mood"


Great Astronomy Activities!

Citizen Sky

For those in Northern Hemisphere, Capella, the "She Goat" in Aurigae, is circumpolar. At my 47 deg North, Capella disappears behind the tree line, and into the light polluted horizon, but she pops up in a few hours and is easy to find. Also easy to find are epsilon Aurigae (al Maaz the Billy Goat) and "The Kids" which make a small, long, triangle of stars just to the Southwest of Capella.

For the next 21 months Epsilon Aurigae, usually the brightest of the trio, will start behaving quite differently than it has for the past 27 years. Epsilon Aurigae is a type of variable star called an eclipsing binary. Epsilon Aurigae and some unknown dark partner, rotate around a common center of mass and every 27 years that dark companion eclipses the giant F-type star. August marks the anticipated beginning for that eclipse which will last for 714 days, dimming from 3.0 mag to about half of its brightness.

So why am I calling this a great astronomy activity? Epsilon Aurigae has some definite quirks and more eyes are needed to help scientist figure out what Epsilon Aurigae's invisible partner really is! We need help...WE NEED YOU!! Anyone can participate; we need people to observe epsilon Aurigae, folks to look at the data for quirks, patterns, or voids, artist to help present the data to the public, friends willing to get the word out to others! To find out more visit:

Direct download: AAGG_sky_tour_Jan_2010.mp3
Category:Sky Tours -- posted at: 9:43 AM