Astronomy Guide January 2023

Dear Stargazer Friends,

Wishing you a Happy 2023! 

Astronomically speaking, 2023 will start with an exciting celestial object: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) – discovered in March 2022 – should significantly increase in magnitude as the month progresses and thus it should be visible with the naked eye. 

Venus made a comeback end of December 2022 and will keep being observable after sunset (SW). It is still quite discreet but will become more prominent towards Spring 2023. Mars and Jupiter will remain visible all month, while Saturn will become unobservable by the end of January as it will approach solar conjunction (on 16 February). At least for the moment, one last great occasion is on 22 January, when Saturn and Venus will appear close (SW) as well as on 23 January, when they will be joined by the Waxing Crescent Moon. 

The winter night sky is dominated by the Orion constellation and the so called Winter Hexagon with six 1st magnitude stars Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux, Procyon, Sirius, and of course another 1st magnitude star, Betelgeuse. The Milky Way is delicately shimmering from SE to NW – only visible from locations with pristine night skies.

Clear skies & best wishes.

Isa 

Waxing Crescent Moon & Venus, 25 December 2022, picture by Isabel Streit 2022

Moon phases January 2023

Times CET

PhaseDate
New Moon02 Jan, 19:33
First Quarter09 Jan, 19:11
Full Moon18 Jan, 00:48
Third Quarter25 Jan, 14:40
Source: Timeanddate

Meteor Showers January 2023

Quadrantids
26 December 2022 – 16 January 2023
Best to be observed starting midnight/early morning hours.  Peak on the 3-4 January night. The Moon will be 92% full. Parent Object: 2003 EH (Asteroid) and presumably Comet 96P/Machholz Radiant: 15:20 +49.7° – ZHR: 120 Velocity: 25 miles/sec (medium – 40.2km/sec)
Gamma Ursae Minorids
15 – 25 January 2023
Peak on 20 January. 

Sources: 

American Meteor Society https://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-shower-calendar/

Kosmos Himmels-Jahr 2023, Hans-Ulrich Keller, Franck-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2022.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is a so called long-period and hyperbolic comet that was discovered in March 2022 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. Hyperbolic means, the comet’s orbit has an eccentricity greater than 1. C/2022 E3 (ZTF). will reach perihelion, closest to the Sun, on 12 January and perigree, closest approach to Earth 1 February 2023 – at a distance of 0.28 AU (42 million km). 

It is currently in the constellation of Corona Borealis and can be observed from the northern hemisphere in the second part of the night towards the early morning hours. It should significantly increase in magnitude as the month progresses – provisions for the “Total-magnitude” are from 10.2 on 2 Jan up to 7.6 on 31 January. Thus it should be visible with the naked eye.

Below, check the ephemeris table provided by NASA JPL Horizons Systems. The data is based on the information they had on 2 January 2023 and can be subject to change.

Source: NASA JPL Horizons Systems 

Planets

For your local times check https://in-the-sky.org

Mercury will become visible for a short time starting 20 January – but it depends on your latitude, i.e. it will be hard to observe north of 53°. 

Venus made a comeback as an early evening object last month and will remain visible shortly after sunset (SW). It will appear in the constellation of Capricornus starting 2 January and starting 25 January in the constellation of Aquarius. On 22 January, it will be appear close to Saturn.

Mars still appears in the constellation of Taurus and is visible all night, although it will set earlier as the month progresses. It’s magnitude will diminish – as well as it’s visible surface. In the early morning hours of 31 January, the Waxing Gibbous Moon will appear close to Mars (W).

Jupiter is still in Pisces and is visible in the evenings in the western part of the sky. On 25 January, the Waxing Crescent Moon will appear close to Jupiter.

Saturn still appears in the constellation of Capricornus but, towards the end of the month, it will not be observable anymore. It will be at solar conjunction on 16 February. Look for Saturn and Venus on 22 January as well as with the Waxing Crescent Moon on 23 Jan (SW).

Uranus is still in the Constellation of Aries. As the month progresses, it will become an object of the first part of the night.

Neptune still appears in the constellation of Aquarius during the evening. It sets earlier and earlier and will become difficult to observe towards the end of January.

Phenomena not to miss in January

The winter night sky is dominated by the constellation of Orion and, as mentioned in December 2022, the so called Winter Hexagon with six 1st magnitude stars Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini), Procyon (Canis Minor), Sirius (Canis Major), and of course another 1st-magnitude star, Betelgeuse (Orion). The Milky Way is visible from SE to NW. It’s delicate shimmering of course only visible away from light polluted skies. 

Stars and nebulae in the Constellation of Orion, 2 January 2023, picture by Isabel Streit 2023
0120:00-24:00Moon 0.3°N of Uranus. Occultation of Uranus visible from North and Central America, parts of northern Europe 
02all nightPleiades N of Moon
0321:00Mars 0.5°N of Moon
14pre-dawnSpica S of Moon (E)
22at duskVenus S of Saturn (SW)
23at duskVenus, Saturn and Waxing Crescent Moon (SW)
26eveningWaxing Crescent Moon and Jupiter (SW)
30eveningWaxing Gibbous Moon, Mars, Pleiades (SSW)
31pre-dawnWaxing Gibbous Moon S of Mars (W)

Bright double stars

On 15 Jan 2023 at around midnight

NameMag.RiseTransitElev.Set
Hamal2.0011h00m18h57m+66°37’34.70″2h54m
Polaris1.9519h49m+47°36’08.71″
Mirfak1.7520h15m+86°58’42.99″
Aldebaran0.8514h07m21h26m+59°36’39.27″4h45m
Rigel0.1516h36m22h05m+34°53’47.07″3h34m
Capella0.0522h08m+88°55’45.67″
Bellatrix1.6015h44m22h16m+49°25’51.42″4h47m
Elnath1.6513h48m22h17m+71°40’24.05″6h46m
Alnilam1.6516h27m22h27m+41°52’41.26″4h26m
Alnitak1.8516h35m22h31m+41°08’07.66″4h27m
Betelgeuse0.4516h09m22h46m+50°28’14.31″5h22m
Menkalinan1.9022h50m+87°55’07.90″
Mirzam1.9518h30m23h13m+25°06’56.07″3h56m
Alhena1.9016h10m23h28m+59°25’56.85″6h47m
Sirius-1.4518h46m23h36m+26°19’57.41″4h25m
Adhara1.5020h09m23h49m+14°06’32.94″3h29m
Wezen1.8020h02m23h59m+16°40’21.33″3h55m
Castor1.9015h32m0h26m+74°53’37.70″9h19m
Procyon0.4018h03m0h30m+48°13’59.41″6h57m
Pollux1.1516h12m0h36m+71°01’39.84″9h01m
Alphard1.9520h52m2h19m+34°19’07.22″7h45m
Regulus1.3520h03m3h00m+54°55’08.97″9h56m
Dubhe2.003h55m+75°19’22.00″
Alioth1.755h45m+81°06’39.35″
Alkaid1.856h39m+87°43’34.09″
Arcturus0.1523h35m7h07m+62°07’09.41″14h39m
Deneb1.2513h30m+88°24’47.05″
Source: Stellarium.org

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