January Skies – by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Perihelion, Planet Plotting, January Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cygnus, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Camelopardalis, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries

  • Comet Journals

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (2021) is in Cancer at 8th magnitude in January. It was at perihelion on November 3 and was closest to Earth on November 12. C/2021 A1 (Leonard) is a long period (80,000 years) comet. It was closest to Earth on December 12, and is at perihelion on January 3, 2022. It is currently at 4th magnitude in Microscopium, but had outbursts in December which temporarily elevated it to 3rd magnitude.

Find the comet on the SW dusk horizon below and slightly south of Jupiter. C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) is in Gemini at 9th magnitude in January. Atlas reaches perihelion on January 9 and will be closest to Earth on January 6. Comet 19P/Borrelly (2022) is an evening comet which moves from Cetus to Pisces in January and may reach magnitude 8 in January. It was closest to Earth on December 11 and will reach perihelion on February 1.

  • Mars Landers

Perseverence landed in Jezero Crater which appears to be an old impact crater which later filled with lava, creating a floor comprised of igneous rock composed (in part) of olivine and pyroxene. The floor was later occupied by a lake created by a river which flowed into the crater through a gap carved in the crater wall. The river deposited a delta which is a target for investigation due to at least one shale layer formed from muds which may well have contained organic molecules. 

Like Perseverence, Curiosity Rover found organic molecules on Mars and is continuing its search for more to provide scientists data so they can better assess the likelihood of current or ancient Martian life. The search is being expanded by looking for organic salts. “In our efforts to characterize indigenous Martian organic matter, we must contend with a near-surface record that has been substantially altered by radiation and oxidation,” notes an opening section in Lewis et al.’s paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. “Under such conditions, much of the surficial organic record on Mars may have decomposed into organic salts, which are challenging for flight instruments to conclusively identify.”

“If organic salts are widespread on the Martian surface, their composition and distribution could offer insight into the less-altered organic record at depth, and they may play an important role in near-surface carbon cycling  and habitability.” 

  • Meteor Showers 

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower in early January is one of the better showers of the year and the Delta Cancrids is a minor shower in mid-January. 

January 3: Quadrantids Active January 1 – 5. Radiant 15h20m +49°. ZHR 60 to 200. 41 km/sec. Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Near-Earth asteroid (196256) 2003 EH1 

January 17: Delta Cancrids. Active January 1 – 24. Radiant 8h40m +20°. ZHR 4. 28 km/sec. Full Moon. Progenitor: Unknown, orbit is similar to that of asteroid 2001 YB5.

  • Perihelion

The Earth reaches perihelion at 91.4 million miles on the 4th at 2:00AM EST. Although this is the closest approach to the Sun of the year, we experience winter because the northern hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun. Combining close approach with winter causes a milder winter than if winter occurred at aphelion. Winter in the Southern Hemisphere does occur at aphelion but that hemisphere benefits from temperature moderation due to ocean area dominating that of the continents.

  • Planet Plotting

In early January, a waxing crescent and gibbous Moon climbs a ladder in the southwestern dusk sky comprised of an alignment of Venus (-4.2 to -4.5) and Mercury (0.7 to +1.5) in Sagittarius, Saturn (0.7), Jupiter (-2.0 to -1.9), and Neptune (+7.9) in Aquarius and Uranus (5.7 to 5.8) in Aries. Venus sets quickly after sunset in the first few days and reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 8th. In the last half of the month, it reappears in the southeastern predawn sky, rising earlier and getting brighter each morning as its crescent waxes. Mercury is above Venus after sunset and ascends to maximum eastern elongation from the Sun of 19° on the 7th when it is 3.4° from Saturn. It will then descend to reach its inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd and will reappear in the southeastern predawn sky below Venus at the end of the month. Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus complete the January alignment, stretching from the horizon to 60° altitude. Mars (+1.5 to +1.4) in Ophiuchus and Sagittarius rises before 6:00AM EST and brightens slightly in January.




Planet Passages




Sagittarius – Capricornus


New Moon

1:33PM EST




-0.7 to +1.5

Maximum East Elongation        

Inferior Conjunction

6:00AM EST

5:00AM EST





-4.2 to -4.5

Inferior Conjunction

8:00PM EST



Ophiuchus, Sagittarius

+1.5 to +1.4



-2.0 to -1.9






+5.7 to +5.8




  • January Moon

The New Moon of January on the 2nd at 1:33PM EST is the start of Lunation 1225 which ends 29.47 days later with the New Moon of February 1 at 12:56AM EST. The Full Moon of January is on the 17th at 6:48PM EST. It is called “Old Moon” or “Moon after Yule”. In colonial America it was the “Winter Moon” and was named the “Wolf Moon” in Medieval England. Celts called it “Quiet Moon” and the Chinese call it “Holiday Moon”. Of the 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan call it “Manidoo-Giizis” (Spirit Moon). The associated cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature for the 1st Moon of Creation and the year is: “manifested through the Northern Lights. It is a time to honor the silence and realize our place within all of Great Mystery’s creatures.” 

Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 222,471 mi. (56.13 Earth radii) on the 1st at 5:55PM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on January 14 at 4:26AM EST, when the Moon will be at a distance of 252,155 mi. (63.62 Earth radii).                          

The waxing crescent Moon appears to pass the evening planets: Mercury on the 3rd, Saturn on the 4th, Jupiter on the 5th, and Neptune on the 7th. The waxing gibbous Moon will appear to pass Uranus on the 11th. The waning crescent Moon passes Venus and Mars on the 29th and Mercury on the 30th.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Sagittarius


1:33PM EST, 1/2 New 0 Days
Mercury Capricornus


3.0° S, 8:00PM EST, 1/3 Waxing Crescent 1.27 Days
Mercury Sagittarius


8.0° S, 7:00PM EST, 1/30 Waning Crescent 0.35 Days
Venus Sagittarius


10.0°S, 9:00PM EST, 1/29 Waning Crescent 27.31 Days
Mars Sagittarius


2.0°S, 10:00AM EST, 1/29 Waning Crescent 26.85 Days
Jupiter Aquarius


4.0°S, 7:00PM EST, 1/5 Waxing Crescent 3.23 Days
Saturn Capricornus


4.0°S, Noon EST, 1/4 Waxing Crescent 1.94 Days
Uranus Aries


1.5°S, 6:00AM EST, 1/11 Waxing Gibbous 8.69 Days
Neptune Aquarius


4.0° S, 5:00AM EST, 1/7 Waxing Crescent 4.64 Days