Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.

What To See In The Night Sky This Week: January 16-22, 2023

With a Last Quarter Moon kicking off this week and it ending with a New Moon the skies will be dark and moonless, allowing for some excellent stargazing if skies are clear.

It’s the perfect week to open your eyes to the winter skies and get to know its bright stars and constellations—something you can do from anywhere on the planet. For starters, look no further than the vast “Winter Circle” of bright stars in the southeast,(see below for how to find this stargazing staple).

This week will also see a beautiful conjunction between Saturn and Venus, the latter becoming ever-brighter as it continues to climb into the post-sunset sky as a brilliant “Evening Star.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2023: Moon near Antares

It will be worth rising early today—about an hour before sunrise—to see a delicate-looking 16%-lit waning gibbous moon shining in the southeastern sky just 2º from reddish star Antares.

It’s the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius—the “the heart of the scorpion” and sits over the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Look lower down and you may glimpse Mercury.

Thursday, January 19, 2023: an ‘Old Moon’ and Mercury

Another early start will bag you a view of a now 8%-lit waning crescent moon—sometimes called an “Old Moon”—close to Mercury on the southeastern horizon just before sunrise.

You’ll also see “Earthshine” on the dark limb of the moon—sunlight reflected from Earth.

Saturday, January 21, 2023: New Moon

Today our satellite is directly between the sun and the Earth. It’s invisible because it’s both lost in the sun’s glare and because its illuminated side is facing away from us. This New Moon marks the start of a new lunar cycle.

For stargazers, it comes with a bonus because it leaves the nights either dark, making them an ideal time to observe stars, constellations and faint deep-sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae—but also faint stars and constellations.

Sunday, January 22, 2023: Venus and Saturn in conjunction

Go outside as soon as the Sun sets and look west to get sight of one of the brightest planets passing very close to one of the best-looking. Venus, shining at magnitude -3.9, will pass 0°21’ to the south of Saturn, much dimmer at just magnitude 0.7.

If you use a small telescope or a pair of binoculars then you’ll see them both together in the same field of view.

Constellation of the week: Gemini

This constellation is located just to the east of Orion and is visible in the evening from late November to early April.

It’s represented by a pair of twins and is easily identifiable by the two bright stars Castor and Pollux, which mark the heads of the twins.

Object of the week: Winter Circle

The Winter Circle (or Hexagon or Loop) is visible throughout the winter months and one of my favorite seasonal sights. An asterism—a pattern of stars that is not an official constellation—it’s a large, circular pattern in the sky formed by a group of bright stars that are located in the constellations Orion, Taurus, Gemini and Canis Major. Here’s how to find it:

  • Go outside about two hours after sunset and look southeast to find the night sky’s brightest star, Sirius (in Canis Major), low on the horizon.
  • Travel towards the south to bright Rigel (in Orion). It’s underneath Orion’s Belt.
  • Now go up to orangey Aldebaran (in Taurus).
  • Here comes the biggest hop—to bright white Capella (in Auriga) high up.
  • Now go down to Pollux (in Gemini– you’ll see Castor nearby, too).
  • Now go back towards the horizon to Procyon (in Canis Minor).
  • Go back to Sirius to complete the Winter Circle.

Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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