Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.
|Tuesday||3||Moon occults Neptune: visible from most of southeastern Asia, Micronesia, Hawaii, western coast of North America.|
|Moon occults Mars: visible from southern tip of India, most of southeastern Asia, Micronesia.|
|Dark skies welcome the Quadrantid meteor shower. Expected peak activity is around 14:00 UT.|
|Wednesday||4||Earth at perihelion|
|Thursday||5||First Quarter Moon|
|Monday||9||Moon occults Aldebaran: visible from northeastern Africa, Arabia, India, China, Japan.|
|Tuesday||10||Moon at perigee|
|Uranus at east quadrature|
|Thursday||12||Moon occults Regulus: visible from southern South America, parts of Antarctic.|
|Venus at greatest elongation east|
|Wednesday||18||Vesta at opposition|
|Thursday||19||Mercury at greatest elongation west|
|Last Quarter Moon|
|Sunday||22||Moon at apogee|
|Monday||30||Moon occults Neptune: visible from most of central Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, western China.|
The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.
The Earth makes its annual closest approach to the Sun on 4 January. The date of perihelion can range from New Year's Day to 5 January.
The closest planet to the Sun is found in the east at dawn. Easier to spot in the southern hemisphere than the north, Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on 19 January.
The evening star still commands the western skies after sunset. It is best seen from northern latitudes where it continues to climb higher above the horizon. However, it appears to be getting lower in the sky when seen from the southern hemisphere. Venus reaches greatest elongation east on 12 January.
Setting in mid-evening, the red planet is found very close in the sky to Neptune on the first day of the month. A small telescope should show both objects in the same field of view. On 3 January, both planets are occulted by the Moon.
Sixth-magnitude Vesta is at opposition on 18 January and is an excellent object for binoculars.
Now rising around midnight, the largest planet in the solar system is well aloft by sunrise.
The ringed planet is a morning sky object and may be lost in the glare of the rising Sun.
This ice giant is at east quadrature on the tenth day of the month and sets around midnight.
A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system. However, with solar conjunction approaching in early March, it is getting increasingly difficult to observe. Found near Mars in the evening twilight sky at the beginning of the month, it and the red planet are occulted by the Moon on 3 January. Neptune is occulted a second time on the penultimate day of the month.