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S&T: Lauren Darby

The New Year opens with a partial solar eclipse, a great meteor shower, and a canopy of bright stars and planets overhead.

For skywatchers in Europe and western Asia, January 4th is your lucky day. The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks in the hours before dawn, and at dawn (or very soon thereafter), the Moon takes a big bite out of the Sun during a partial solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the eclipse won't be seen from North America, but you can still keep an eye out for fleeting Quadrantid meteors any time after midnight local time.

With new Moon falling on the 4th (which is why a solar eclipse is occurring), the evening sky will be dark for viewing Jupiter high in the southwest at dusk and mighty Orion rising in the east. You can use the Hunter's three belt stars to find the Hyades and Pleiades star cluster's to the upper right.

Meanwhile, Venus and Mercury are putting on a celestial show in the eastern sky before dawn. Both reach greatest elongation from the Sun this month.

Get the lowdown on these sky sights and more by downloading January's audio sky tour. It's an 8-megabyte MP3 file that's 8½ minutes long.


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