Your astronomy guide to celestial objects visible in January 2021. I hope you’ll enjoy my picks. Mostly relevant for northern hemisphere. Standard location is Bern, Switzerland (UCT+1/CET).

Pleiades - Open star cluster
The Pleiades (M45) – Open Star Cluster

Moon phases

PhaseDate
Last Quarter 6 January 
New Moon13 January
First Quarter20 January
Full Moon28 January
Moon phases January 2021

Moon conjunctions with bright
stars (<5 mag.) and planets

Starting 19 January till 21 January, the waxing Moon will be visible near Mars and Uranus. The Moon will also appear in the constellation of Taurus and its star cluster “The Hyades”. These so called conjunctions should be a lovely sight on:

  • 23 January with ω Tau
  • 24 January with ι Tau
  • 25 January very early in the morning with n Tau
Moon and the Constellations Perseus, Pleiades and Orion
Waxing Gibbous Moon & Perseus, Pleiades (star cluster) and Orion

Planets

Mars is well visible until the end of January. Mars and Uranus will be at conduction on 21 January – already close on 20 January. The waxing Moon will be close as well. Other planets will be difficult or impossible to observe in January.

Meteor shower

The Quadrantids start on 27 December 2020 and last until 10 January 2021. Peak will be on 2 and 3 January 2021. According to the American Meteor Society, the Quadrantids often produce bright fireballs.

Galaxies

Although a bit of a “neck breaker” for the moment, look for Andromeda Galaxy (M31) (mag. 3.57). Triangulum Galaxy (M33) (mag. 5.87) is also well visible. Both galaxies ideally at the very least with binoculars.

Star clusters

I love observing star clusters. The Pleiades are a “classic” among them and they can be observed with the naked eye. Fortunately, in January they will continue to be well visible.

The Hyades (Constellation of Taurus), the Orion Belt Cluster as well as the Alpha Persei Cluster (Constellation of Perseus) are all absolutely fascinating star clusters to observe.

For the “owls” among you: Coma Berenices will be visible after midnight (around 2 a.m. CET). Look for the beautiful “Coma Star Cluster” with around 40 brighter stars. You’ll find a picture of it below. The Coma Star Cluster is above the light polluted part in the picture (sorry about this). Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is faintly visible as well. For a better resolution, check my Astrophoto Gallery.

Coma Star Cluster in Coma Berenices
Coma Berenice with Coma Star Cluster & Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Bright stars

There are a number of bright stars, including variable & double stars, that continue to be observable in January.

Watch out for the beautiful binary star Sirius (α CMa) in the Constellation of Canis Major. Other bright stars that are well visible throughout January:

Star nameConstellation
Aldebaran (α Tauri)Taurus
Altair (α Aquilae)Aquila
Bellatrix (γ Orionis)Orion
Betelgeuse (α Orionis)Orion
Capella (α Aurigae)Auriga
Caph (β Cassiopeiae)Cassiopeia
Daneb (α Cyg)Cygnus
Fomalhaut (α Piscis Austrin)Piscis Austrinus
Markab (α Pegasi)Pegasus
Mirfak (α Persei)Perseus
Pollux (β Geminorum)Gemini
Rigel (β Orionis)Orion
Vega (α Lyrae)Lyra
Selection of bright stars visible in January 2021 (northern hemisphere)

Bright nebulae

DesignationTypeConstellationmag.
Crab Nebula (M1)Supernova remnant, pulsar wind nebulaTaurus8.63
Great Orion Nebula (M42)Diffuse nebulaOrion4.56
Pleiades (M45)Open star cluster with reflection nebulaeTaurus1.36
Merope Nebula (NGC 1435)Reflection nebula in PleiadesTaurus4.34
Elephant’s Trunk Nebula (IC 1396)Emission nebulaCepheus3.66
Heart Nebula (IC 1805/Sh2-190)Emission nebulaCassiopeia6.64
Rosette Nebula (NGC 2238/Caldwell 49)Emission nebulaMonoceros9.61
North America Nebula (NGC 7000)Emission nebulaCygnus4.18
Selection of bright nebulae visible in January 2021 (northern hemisphere)

Check out the open source Stellarium.org and create your own astronomical events agenda.

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