January kicks off the New Year with wonderful sights for backyard astronomers to enjoy with friends and family. Don't forget to bundle up on clear, cold evenings as you explore the sparkling night sky. Here are a few of our top picks for January stargazers:
Quadrantid Meteor Shower
The Quadrantid Meteor Shower will be the first substantial meteor shower of 2020, with an estimated peak rate of around 120 meteors per hour. The shower will be active until January 12th, but peak rates are expected around 01:00 PST on January 4th. The Moon will be at first quarter, but fortunately will set around midnight providing little interference.
The nights around January 24th will be the best nights for observations due to the dark skies resulting from the New Moon. Bundle up, grab a telescope and your astrophotography gear and get out there to view and image those elusive fainter deep sky objects.
January Close Approaches
|The Moon & Mars||2°40'||07:00 PST||January 20|
|Venus & Neptune||0°18'||18:00 PST||January 27|
Orion High in the Sky
Our namesake constellation will be well-placed for backyard astronomers throughout January. Some of our favorite targets in or near Orion are:
January Challenge Object
Just west of Rigel, the bright blue/white star that marks the western "knee" of Orion, lies the Witch Head Nebula (IC 2118), in the neighboring constellation Eridanus. The Witch-Head is a reflection nebula that shines from reflected light off of Rigel, like the reflection nebula in the Pleiades, M45. You don't need a big telescope; a wide field of view, low power and a dark sky are needed to see this challenging nebula. (Hint: Don't use filters)
All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.