All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores!
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.
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.
Jupiter lies in the glare of the sun but may be glimpsed in the morning twilight at the end of the month. Saturn, Ceres and Pluto are all in conjunction with the Sun (Jan 13th) and so are also not viewable whilst Pallas is faint and in the morning sky but difficult. Mars lies in the morning sky moving past Antares in Scorpius. Venus dominates the early evening twilight and is close to Neptune on the 27th. Uranus lies higher in the evening sky with minor planet Vesta nearby. A Penumbral eclipse of the Moon occurs on Jan 10th -
Special event: At the time or writing the star Betelgeuse, bright orange top left hand star of Orion, is undergoing a dimming, part of its variable nature and is at its dimmest for at least 25 years and possibly 50 years. So do take a look at Orion when it is clear and carefully note its brightness compared with Aldebaran, Rigel, Bellatrix and the belt stars. See the ‘Seasonal Deep Sky’ page for more information about Orion.
January finds brilliant Venus dominating the evening twilight sky at the start of the month in Capricornus. It gradually rises higher each evening as it moves into Aquarius towards the end of the month. As it does so it meets the much fainter Neptune as it slowly heads down into the twilight sky and they lie closest on the evening of January 27th. The wide field view (left) shows the view looking SW at around 5:45pm from January 22nd. On the 23rd Venus lies close to Lambda Aqr (mag 3.9) then from the 25th to 30th it lies in the same 7x50 degree field of view of binoculars (below) as Neptune.
The inset on the chart at right shows a telescope view of closest approach and also shows magnitude 4.4 Phi. Venus and Neptune can’t be mistaken as Venus is naked eye at mag -
Meanwhile, further along the ecliptic we find Uranus lies in Aries and is well placed to view with binoculars in the evening sky once twilight has ended. It is around mag 5.8 so technically naked eye from a dark site with no light pollution but 10x50 binoculars will easily show it. Uranus is stationary on the 11th and then resumes normal motion remaining viewable until early April. The chart at left shows this motion from Jan 1st to Apr 1st with a scale bar to help whilst the star HD 12479 is mag 5.9 so very similar in brightness.
Relatively nearby over in Cetus lies the minor planet Vesta which is also viewable in binoculars but closer in brightness to Neptune as it is mag 7.5 during January. Vesta moves up past Mu Ceti (mag 4.3) during the first two weeks of the month and both it and Uranus are briefly visited by our Moon on the 4th and 5th respectively. A wider field finder chart here helps spot the minor planet along with the general location of Uranus. The brightness of the moon on the 5th will make it harder to spot Vesta but it is still worth trying for.
Turning to the early morning sky we find Mars passes through three constellations during the month. It starts the year in Libra then moves into Scorpius, passing south of Graffias on the 8th and then very close to Omega Scorpii the next morning. It moves into Ophiuchus then on the 17th it lies north of Antares. This is a good time to compare the colour of ‘Red’ Mars and ‘Red’ Antares. The crescent moon (shown twice normal size) joins the view on the 20th and 21st as shown on our chart at right which is set for ~ mid month at 7am.
On the night of Jan 3rd into the morning of the 4th is the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower. The radiant, where the meteors appear to originate from, is shown on the main monthly chart . Normally a meteor shower is named after the constellation it appears to radiate from, however, the name comes from an old disused constellation of Quadrans Muralis, the Mural Quadrant, an astronomical instrument. The radiant is circumpolar in the Northern Hemisphere and so technically the meteors can be viewed all through the night but the moon is at First Quarter in the evening sky on the night of the 3rd so the best conditions with a dark sky will occur later in the night after moonset.
Although normally a lunar eclipse is mentioned in detail, the Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on Jan 10th is actually a partial Penumbral Eclipse and not very dramatic and shows only a faint dimming of the Lunar disk. The moon begins to pass into the penumbra at 5:07pm with mid eclipse at 7:11pm, leaving the penumbra at 9:12pm. It passes through the northern part of the penumbra and will be a very slight eclipse, not easy to view! Look towards the ENE horizon for the full moon low down at the start of the eclipse. The moon also lies not far from Wasat in Gemini at the start of the eclipse so look out for Wasat too!
Also look out for the following:
7th Moon lies above Aldebaran in Taurus (evening)
8th Moon lies near Zeta Taurii and M1 (evening)
11th Moon lies close to and above Beehive cluster, M44 (late evening)
12th Moon lies to right of Regulus and Sickle asterism (evening)
14th Moon lies to lower right of Denebola in Leo (late evening)
17th Last Quarter moon lies above Spica (morning)
23rd Slim crescent moon below Jupiter in very bright morning twilight
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2020
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020
Earth is at Perihelion (closest to the Sun) on January 5th when it will be 91.4 million miles or 147.1 million kilometres from the Sun.
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