Every January millions of us resolve to do something, anything, different or better in the coming year. One solid resolution would be to get outside and enjoy the night sky more. It’ll be tough — often you’ll be too busy, or too tired, or . . . well, you get the picture. So why not resolve to do more stargazing this coming year?
There’s no better way to ease into that goal than by listening to our monthly Sky Tour astronomy podcast. It’s got all the information you need to get started, provided in an informative and entertaining 12-minute guided tour of the nighttime sky. Every month thousands of other skywatchers just like you download or stream our Sky Tour podcast to get familiar with the goings-on in the starry sky above you. Why not join them?
The western evening sky is packed with planets as January opens, but it won't stay that way for long. Venus and Saturn are wrapping up their months-long arc across the evening sky and will soon dip from sight. But around January 7th, brilliant Venus will be replaced low in the west with another bright planet. And which one is that? You’ll have to listen to the Sky Tour podcast to find out!
An obvious asterism (star pattern) to look for is the five-star zigzag of Cassiopeia. It looks like a squashed W in summertime, and like a flattened M in winter. After sunset, once it gets dark, face north and look almost straight up. There’s Cassiopeia in its “M” position. It’s a little wider than your clenched fist at arm's length. Its left side is the brightest and easiest to see. This grouping is the Big Dipper’s counterpart in the northern sky. In spring and summer, when the Dipper rides high, Cassiopeia lurks low. In fall and winter, it’s Cassiopeia’s turn to shine high over the evening world, while the Dipper sinks low behind the trees.
Above the eastern horizon at nightfall you’ll see the stars of Orion, the Hunter. Look for a trio of bright stars in a vertical row. These mark Orion’s belt — yet another asterism — and there’s nothing else like them anywhere in the sky. To the belt’s upper left is the bright star Betelgeuse, which marks the Hunter’s shoulder. On the right side of the Belt is Orion’s other really bright star, Rigel. Can you see the color difference between peachy Betelgeuse and icy-white Rigel?
And of course there’s much, much more to see in the night sky during January. It’s a great month to track down some of the bright and beautiful stars that look as if you could reach out and touch them on a cold, crisp winter night. So download or listen to this month’s Sky Tour podcast — and get started on that New Year’s resolution to do more stargazing!