What's in the Sky — January 2019
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 2019. You'll want to be outside late in the night on January 3, before dawn on January 4. Those of you in the more northerly latitudes should get some great views, especially with the dark skies as we approach the New Moon on January 6.
The nights around January 5 will be the best nights for observations due to the dark skies resulting from the New Moon. Bundle up and get out there to view and image those elusive fainter deep sky objects.
Total Lunar Eclipse
January 20 — 21 will be your opportunity to witness a Lunar Eclipse. Provided your skies are clear, observers in North and South America, and western parts of Europe and Africa should have visibility of a Total Lunar Eclipse. While those of you in Central and eastern Africa, Europe, and Asia won't see a Total Eclipse, you will still see a Partial Eclipse of the Moon.
Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter
Get up early (before sunrise) on January 22 to catch the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. These 2 bright celestial bodies will appear within 2.5 degrees of each other so make sure you don't miss the view.
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.