January conjunctions

© The NeMu / Pixabay

On the evening of the 11th January we have a conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury

I hope you were able to see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The weather was not helpful in South England and I was able to see these planets the day before not on the day of the conjunction.

If this has given you a taste for these events we have two more this January...

At 4:30 pm on the evening of the 11th January we have a conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury, with Saturn not far away. They are only 6 degrees high at this time, much lower than the Great Conjunction, and the Sun will not long have set so the sky will be very bright. Because you will need binoculars to pick them out from the sky back ground please DO NOT LOOK WHILE THE SUN IS STILL VISIBLE! That would lead to permanent eye damage.

What you will see in the South West just above the horizon will be Jupiter (the brightest of the three) and at the seven o’clock position will be Mercury. To the right at the four o’clock will be Saturn but it is much fainter and you may not be able to see it at all. The spacing will be at least three times the width of the Moon between each planet.

Only about 1/1000 people have ever seen the nearest planet to the Sun, Mercury. After this date it will get higher in the evening sky until the 26th when it will be over ten degrees high at 5:00pm. You may need binoculars to pick it out but once you know where to look it should be quite easy with the unaided eye. After this date it draws back to the Sun over the coming couple of weeks.

On 20th January high in the Southern sky you will see Mars. Now past its best it looks like quite a bright, reddish star. A long way below it will be the Moon. At the seven o’clock position to Mars and about four times the width of the Moon away is the planet Uranus. You will need binoculars or a telescope for this, Uranus is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye but not from average skies in England. It is much fainter than Mars, but at the moment its disk will be about 40% the size of Mars. You may just about be able to spot this disk, it is pale blue if it has any colour, but if you cannot see the disk of Mars then you won’t see the disk of Uranus.