All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2017.

Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.

January 2017

Solar System quick summary

For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.

The early evenings Venus and Mars are easily viewable whilst Neptune, Uranus and Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova  (45P/H-M-P) can also be spotted along with dwarf planet, Ceres. Vesta is at opposition on the 18th.  Jupiter can be found in Virgo and Saturn lies in the early morning sky. Mercury is a morning twilight object from mid month. Comet  45P/H-M-P  descends into the evening twilight but emerges as an 8th mag object in the morning sky late in the month. The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on January 3rd and is favourable to look out for so for its radiant check out the position on the above January all sky chart.

Main events


On the first days of the month look over towards the SW at around 17:00 GMT and Venus will be a brilliant object with Mars to its upper left. On the 1st, the crescent Moon  lies to the lower right of Venus and forms a triangle with it and Comet 45P/H-M-P acting as a good guide to the comet which could be mag 6 and visible for the first week of the month. More details for the comet are on the Comet spage. The comets track is shown for 3 days as is the positions for the Moon, Venus and Mars. The Moon lies between Venus and Mars on the 2nd then to the upper left of Mars the next evening.


Take a look at Mars with either a binocular or small telescope. On the 1st, Neptune lies very close to it and will be just 18 arc minutes away from the red planet! Actually Mars lies the other side of Neptune the night before and in a 26mm 52° eyepiece on an 80mm refractor you can see Mars close to Neptune from Dec 30th through to Jan 2nd as shown here at left. Note that at this magnified view you can even see that Neptune does move a little against the background star field. This will make for a good photo opportunity if the sky is clear!


Meanwhile move on a few days and on the 11th Venus also passes very close to Neptune (right) being closest on the evening of the 12th when Venus will also be at Greatest Eastern Elongation from the Sun.  


Venus and Mars keep ahead of the twilight and Venus lies close to Lambda Aquarii on the 14th to add to the fun! It doesn't quite stop there, for the crescent moon joins Mars and Venus again on the 31st as shown below in the next chart. The enlarged moon is enhanced to show 'Earthshine' whilst Venus and Mars are also greatly enlarged to show their scale to each other and in particular the phase of Venus. They all lie just to the left of the circlet asterism of Pisces but the moon should be easy enough to spot in the SW at 6pm!


We have a nice bright(ish) minor planet come to opposition this month when Vesta is at opposition on January 18th. It lies close to the border of Cancer and Gemini (below) and is moving retrograde away from Cancer. It reaches mag 6.2 so easy in a binocular but it still looks just like a star! It is its motion that betrays it so watch as it moves towards Kappa Geminorum when it lies closest to the star on Feb 3rd.


The Moon always dominates events in the sky and does so in Nightscenes and on the 19th it lies directly above both Jupiter and Spica in Virgo when it is almost at Last Quarter phase. The view at left shows the scene at 05:00 GMT,  two days later Jupiter lies in conjunction with Spica, i.e. due north of the star.  Jupiter shines at mag -2 compared with Spica which is mag 0.95 although the moon is brightest at mag -11!

Make sure if you have a telescope that you take a look at the largest planet in our solar system and note its four Galilean moons going round it over the course of a few days.



Meanwhile in its relentless motion around the Earth, the Moon steadily heads down into the morning twilight and as it does so it catches up with two more planets, Saturn and Mercury. Mercury has an average morning apparition this month and is low in the morning twilight from the 5th through to the 26th when the slim crescent Moon joins it. Saturn is creeping up out of the morning twilight moving away from Mercury and the crescent Moon lies above the ringed planet on the 24th (not shown on the chart at left). On the chart, Saturn's brightness is exaggerated to show it in the twilight morning sky. Both planets motion are shown daily.

Mercury creeps up and is at Greatest Western Elongation on the 19th before dropping back deeper into the brightening twilight. Look for both Saturn and Mercury at around ½ to ¾ hour before sunrise for the best chance to catch them. Mercury is brightest at mag -0.2 towards the end of its apparition and Saturn shines at mag  0.5, so just over half a magnitude difference between them.

Also look out for the following:

Jan   2nd Venus lies just 50' north of Iota Aquarii in the evening twilight

Jan   3rd  Mars lies to the south of Lambda Aquarii, near Neptune with the Moon to their left - evening twilight  /  Quadrantid Meteor shower peak - favourable. See the main January all sky chart for the location of its radiant.

Jan   7th  Reappearance of Mu Ceti from behind the Moon in evening twilight

Jan   8th  Moon forms triangle with M45 and Aldebaran tonight

Jan   9th  Moon lies close to Aldebaran and the Hyades

Jan 14th  Moon rises near to Regulus in Leo

Jan 23rd  Crescent Moon lies above Antares

Jan 30th  Slim Crescent Moon lies near to Lambda Aquarii and Neptune

  Clear skies and happy sky watching.


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2017 AD


Earth is at Perihelion (closest to the Sun) ) on January 4th when it will be at a distance from the Sun of 91.4 Million miles or 147.1 MKm. It is Winter in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Webmaster  © Paul L Money 2017