It's hard to believe, looking out the window in the winter time, that our planet is actually closer to the sun in January than in June. Therefore, it should be assumed that we should now face a warmer weather. However, due to the fact that the Earth's northern hemisphere is tilted by the sun at this time of year, the amount of sunlight we receive actually spreads across a larger area and at a low angle, resulting in cooler temperatures and our winter season, supplemented with large amounts of snow.
In June, though away from the sun, our northern hemisphere faces directly to the sun, and thus receives plenty of sunlight and as a result warmer weather.
Mercury is lost in the sunshine this month, although it can be noticed with the help of binoculars in the east just before the sunrise. On the morning of January 4, look for a very thin, frail, crescent just above Mercury.
Venus, which ran to the westernmost longitude of the sun on January 6, rises around 4 o'clock this month and is located in the southeast as the sky begins to shine. Our "morning star" will be the highest in the early morning paganities just before sunrise, with the moon's lunar moon close.
Jupiter follows Venus in the early morning sky about 45 minutes later. The two planets will approach each other this month, while Venus falls below the sky.
Saturn, which is currently moving towards the connection with the sun, is too close to the sun to be monitored. It joins Venus and Jupiter early in the morning during the last week of January. The ring planet will appear very low in the southeast to the lower left corner of Venus in the morning sky.
Mars is our only tonight planet this month, which appears high on the southwestern sky, while the twilight darkens, and sets in the west around 10:24 am.
The main celestial event in January will be the entire eclipse of the moon on January 21. The actual eclipse will start at around 10:36 am. AST and lasts until around 3:48 pm (on January 22), with full eclipse (for us here at PI) at 01.12 am (on January 22). This is classified as a sunny dead Eclipse, because the moon is full of the night of January 21 and is closest to the Earth (perigee) on that date. The moon will appear about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than the normal full moon. It can be seen that the news is referred to as "eclipse of blood". This is about the reddish-orange color that can assume the moon's surface during the eclipse, due to sunlight broken through the Earth's atmosphere around the globe, resulting in a more red part of the spectrum of the sun's shining colors towards the surface of the moon. Let's hope for the clear time that evening and at midnight so we can see this incredible event, because it will be the last full moon eclipse that has been seen everywhere on the planet by May 2021.
By next month, I wish you all clear things, and a rich and successful New Year.
Glen K. Roberts lives in Stratford, PA, and is an avid amateur astronomer because he was a small child. His column appears in the Guardian on the first Wednesday of every month. He welcomes comments from readers, and anyone who would like to do so is encouraged to send it to [email protected]