January’s new moon welcomes Mercury as a ‘morning star’

The January new moon will be at 6:57 a.m. Eastern Time on January 11, according to the US Naval Observatoryand a day later the planet Mercury It will reach its greatest separation from the sun to the west, appearing as a “morning star.”

New moons occur when Sun and the moon share the same celestial longitude, a position also called conjunction. In the new phase, you cannot see the moon of Land because the illuminated side is facing away from us.

New moons are only visible during solar eclipses; The only way to see the new moon is when it passes in front of the sun, causing a solar eclipsewhich won’t happen this month (the next one is scheduled for April 8).

Related: New Moon Calendar 2024: When will the next new moon be?

visible planets


A Celestron telescope on a white background.

A Celestron telescope on a white background.

Are you looking for a telescope to see the planets of the solar system up close? We recommend the Celestron Astro Fi 102 as the first choice in our guide to the best telescopes for beginners.

The day after New Moon (January 12), the sun rises at 7:19 a.m. Eastern Time In New York. Mercury rises to 5:40 a.m., so at 7 in the morning the temperature in the southeast will be about 12 degrees. The planet reaches its greatest western elongation that afternoon at 2:18 p.m., according to sky-watching site In-the-Sky.org. Mercury will still be difficult to see, but Venus, which will be about 19 degrees high, can be used to find it.

Venus It is the brightest star-like object in the sky, and will be above and to the right of Mercury, which is fainter and barely visible as the sky begins to brighten. One should try to spot Mercury as soon as possible after its rise, as the brightening sky will make it harder to see as dawn approaches.

As one moves south, Mercury’s viewing prospects improve because the angle of Mercury’s orbit (as seen from Earth) with the horizon becomes steeper. If you are in Miami, for example, Mercury rises at 5:29 am and at dawn, which is at 7:09 a.m., Mercury has a total height of 18 degrees. The innermost planet won’t be visible at that point because the sky is too bright, but at 6:30 a.m. it will be about 12 degrees above the southeastern horizon.

a gray planet covered in cratersa gray planet covered in craters

a gray planet covered in craters

The best viewing perspectives are near the equator. In Quito, sunrise on January 12 is at 6:15 am and Mercury rises at 4:38 am local time. At dawn the altitude is 23 degrees in the southeast, and half an hour before dawn at 5:45 am Mercury is 15 degrees high. As one moves deeper into the southern hemisphere, the planet’s elevation will decrease again; In Buenos Aires, the planet rises to 4:13 a.m., with sunrise at 5:53 a.m. Half an hour before sunrise, the planet is about 12 degrees high in the southeast; as in the northern hemisphere Venus can be used to find Mercury; Venus, about 22 degrees above the eastern horizon, will be above and to the left of Mercury.

On the day of the new moon, Venus is still bright. morning Star, and when the moon does not rise it is the last celestial object that can be seen with the naked eye; It is a distinct and bright star even relatively close to dawn. Venus rises to 4:45 a.m. on January 11 in New York, with the dawn in 6:49 a.m. At dawn the altitude of the planet is 17 degrees.

a pale yellow planet in the night skya pale yellow planet in the night sky

a pale yellow planet in the night sky

Like Mercury, the planet appears higher above the horizon as one approaches the equator and then begins to sink again as one moves deeper into the southern hemisphere. In San Juan, Puerto Rico. For example, the planet rises to 4:27 am local time and at dawn (6:59 am) the planet is a full 30 degrees above the eastern horizon. In Quito, the planet rises earlier, at 3:46 am, and you could see the planet almost directly above Mercury in the east-southeast. And at sunrise at 6:17 am, Venus is 34 degrees above the horizon.

The day of the new moon is also when Mars will begin to emerge from the sun’s glare in the hours before dawn. From New York City (and places of similar latitude) Mars rises 6:23 am local time, only 26 minutes before the Sun; Consider yourself lucky if you can spot it. In places further south, Mars rises further ahead of the Sun, but not by much; In Quito, for example, the planet rises at 5:12 a.m. local time, but sunrise is at 6:18 a.m., and half an hour before sunrise the planet is only about 8 degrees high. As January progresses, the planet will appear further west of the Sun, as the Sun moves east against the background. starsmaking it more visible and part of a line of three terrestrial (or rocky) planets that extend from the horizon upwards in the hours before dawn.

In the evening sky, Jupiter and Saturn Both are visible from places about 41 degrees North (New York, Chicago, Omaha or Madrid (Spain)) at night, and both are in the southern half of the sky. At about 6:30 p.m., when the sky is completely dark, Jupiter will be just west of south, a bright yellow-white “star” about 61 degrees above the horizon. Saturn will be fainter and much closer to the southwest horizon when the planet sets at 8:22 p.m. in New York. Jupiter sets later, at 1:34 am on January 12. For southern hemisphere skywatchers, the situation is similar in the mid-latitudes; In Melbourne, Australia, for example, on the evening of January 11 Saturn sets at 11:05 pm local time, and the planet is about 17 degrees high in the west at 9:30 pm (sunset in Melbourne is at 8:46 pm). pm) with Jupiter 36 degrees above the horizon in the northwest. Jupiter is in the northern half of the sky because from southern latitudes the sky is “upside down” (although really it’s just that one sees the stars from the opposite side of the equator).

Stars and Constellations

Winter constellations In January they will be in full swing for observers in the northern hemisphere. Around 6 p.m., Orion the Hunter is fully above the eastern horizon, and one can see its stars appear as the sky darkens. Faces of Orion Taurus, which in the early afternoon is over Hunter (the constellation is actually to the west and north). You can see the Hyades, a bright star cluster that is the “face” of the bull.

Looking to the left, above Orion’s head, you see Gemini, the Twins, and the two stars. Beaver and Pollux. Castor is the taller of the two stars, as the Twins are on its “side” just after passing the horizon. To the north and west of Los Gemelos, above them in the early afternoon, is Auriga, the Auriga. Auriga contains the bright star Capella, which from the latitude of New York City and above never sets: it is one of the circumpolar stars.

At approximately 9 pm on January 21, Canis Major and Canis Minor, the “hunting dogs” of Orion, have cleared the horizon and are in the southeast. Canis Major is below Orion (to the south) while Canis Minor is to the east (to the right of Orion, to the left of the observer). Canis Major, the large dog, contains Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Looking to the left and above Sirius, you will see Procyon, the brightest star in the Puppy. Procyon, Sirius and Betelgeuse in Orion they form the Winter Triangle asterism That’s easy to see even from places with light pollution in cities and suburbs.

At 11 pm lion the lion it is completely above the horizon; one can detect it by looking for Sirius, which at that point is almost due south, and turning left (eastward) and up; Procyon will be seen to the southeast. Continue left from Procyon and slightly down until one faces almost due east; one should be able to see Regulus, or Alpha Leonis, also called Cor Leonis, the Heart of the Lion. Continue diagonally towards the horizon and you will encounter Denebola, the lion’s tail.

At this time of night, Orion is completely “upright” and the Belt stars form an east-west line with a slight upward angle; It’s much easier to see the shape of Orion’s shoulders and legs. If one looks at the three stars of the Belt, Betelgeuse is the one above and to the left, while Rigel, the foot of Orion, is below and to the right. If the local city lights are not too bright, a fainter star can be detected just above and to the right of Rigel; this is the beginning of Eridanus, the River, and the star is called Cursa or Beta Eridani, as it is the second brightest star in the constellation. Eridanus’ brightest star, Achernar, is not visible at all from north of 33 degrees latitude. In the continental United States, that means one must be in one of the states along the Gulf Coast, the southern half of Arizona or New Mexico, or San Diego.

The Orion constellation as seen from the Mayall 4-meter Telescope on Kitt Peak in southern Arizona.The Orion constellation as seen from the Mayall 4-meter Telescope on Kitt Peak in southern Arizona.

The Orion constellation as seen from the Mayall 4-meter Telescope on Kitt Peak in southern Arizona.

For observers in the southern hemisphere, January is when Puppis, Carina and Vela, the three constellations that make up the ship (connected to Argo, the famous ship of Jason and the Argonauts), stand out. As it is southern summer, the sun does not set until after 8 at night; For the sky to darken completely you have to wait until 9:30 pm. At that point in the northeastern sky you would see an “upside down” Orion, with the Belt stars above Betelgeuse, which from Melbourne is below and to the right.

Meanwhile, Rigel is up and to the left, and this time, when one follows the river from Cursa, it rises 62 degrees to a point just west of north to Achernar. If one uses Betelgeuse and Sirius as “indicators”, one can draw a line between them to the south (it will be on the right) and above that line is the bright Canopus, the brightest star of Carina, the Keel of the Ship, a about 52 degrees high. and towards the east. Carina is one of the three constellations that make up the legendary Argo, the ship that Theseus, the hero of Greek legend, sailed. Between Canopus and Sirius is a group of seven fainter stars that form an elongated shape, something like a foot and an ankle; That’s Puppis, the Poop Deck. Look just south (to the right) and you can see a ring-shaped group of stars that is Vela, the Vela.

Turning a little further south (it will be to the right) you can see Crux, the Southern Cross, at a height of between 12 and 17 degrees in the south-southeast. From the latitude of Melbourne Crux is circumpolar: it never sets. Crux is one of the smallest of the 88 constellations in the sky; At that time in January it points towards the horizon. If you turn almost to the south you will see Rigil Kentaurus, also known as Alpha Centauri. Centauri is almost below the horizon, but by midnight the constellation has almost completely risen.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the planets or anything else in the night sky during new moons, our guides to the best telescopes and binoculars are a great place to start.

And if you’re looking to take pictures of any of these or the night sky in general, check out our guide on how to photograph the moon, how to photograph the planets, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. .

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