If you are a fan of stargazing and astrological wonders, then January 2018 is your month! Astrologists and lovers of all things space-related are getting excited about the days to come with the month promising us not one, but two supermoons, a stunning meteor shower, and some fascinating planetary movement. While not all of these sights will be easily viewed with the naked eye, experts aren’t predicting that they will be hard to spot with the help of a telescope or binoculars!
If you’re looking to take in the sights, there are some steps you can take to optimize your stargazing efforts this month. Seek out a location further from the city, eliminating the light pollution that can interfere with your view. You also want to find a location with an open view of the sky, such as a large field, cutting back on the objects that can get in your way like tall buildings or trees. You can also cut back on fumbling in the darkness and time needed for your eyes to adjust by investing in a red flashlight or covering your cell phone with red cellophane.
January 1st: New Year’s Supermoon
The month opened with a stunning supermoon, also known as the ‘Wolf Moon’ on day 1. A ‘supermoon’ refers to the phenomenon when the moon is full during the period of its orbit in which it is closest to the Earth. This causes the moon to appear 30% brighter and 14% larger in size than a standard full moon, and typically occur once every 13 months.
January 3rd/4th: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
Tonight’s the night! While it will be a little harder to view this year’s Quadrantid meteor shower due to the incredible amount of light that will still likely be coming from the moon following the supermoon, the annual show is sure to impress. The Quadrantids actually run from December 22nd to January 17th, however, during tonight’s peak experts are estimating up to 40 meteors per hour, with the most meteors expected to be visible in the last hour before dawn.
January 4th/5th: The Meeting of Regulus and the Moon
Late on the night of January 4th, and into the early hours of January 5th the moon is predicted to pass incredibly close to Regulus, a bright star that is best known for being part of the constellation Leo, the lion. Some viewers, depending on their location at the time, may even have the opportunity to watch as the star disappears behind the moon, a phenomenon called a lunar occultation.
January 8th: Last Quarter Moon
Continuing to follow the moon phases throughout the month of January, on the 8th the moon will reach the Last Quarter. The moon will be illuminated on the eastern side, towards the pre-dawn sun, which will continue into the morning daylight hours. This is one of the few sights that you will be able to view in the light of day!
January 11th: The Moon Meets Mars and Jupiter
If you are fascinated by the view of the planets, tonight’s occurrence is one that you don’t want to miss. The waning crescent moon, Mars and Jupiter will all be seen incredibly close to one another, forming a triangular pattern in the sky, In fact, the three will be so close that they can all be seen in the field of view of binoculars at the same time.
January 13th/14th: Mercury, Saturn and the Moon
Another interesting sight for those that enjoy the planets, on January 13th Mercury will officially move past Saturn, putting the two incredibly close together in the night sky. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, on January 14th the moon will join the others, creating a triangular pattern similar to the one that was visible with Mars, Jupiter and the moon earlier this month.
January 19th: Jupiter Double Shadow Event
There are times throughout the year that, when the pieces of the puzzle all fall into place, we can actually view a shadow from one of Jupiter’s 4 moons as they pass across the planet. Occasionally, however, we have the opportunity to see multiple of these shadows at the same time. If you’re willing to get up early enough, at approximately 4:45 AM shadows from both Europa and Ganymede can be seen.
January 26th/27th: Moon Eclipses the Eye of Taurus
As the moon continues to move through the constellations, it will find its way into Taurus on the night of January 26th, into the morning of January 27th. During this time, it will cross so close to Aldebaran, the bright orange star better known as the ‘bull’s eye’ that the star will appear to disappear at approximately 1:53 AM, reappearing 57 later.
January 31st: Blue Moon, Supermoon and a Total Lunar Eclipse
This month is really going to go out with a bang, with the appearance of a blue moon, the term used to refer to a second full moon in the span of a month, which also happens to be a supermoon AND during the time the supermoon is visible, a total lunar eclipse will occur. If you can only make it out to enjoy the sights one day this month, this is the day to do it! You won’t have too long to view the eclipse, as it will be starting just before the moon passes below the horizon, so be prepared!