Best Deep-Sky Objects in January 2023

~6 min
M47 star cluster

The first month of the new year brings us many beautiful targets to see in the night sky. In this article, we’ll tell you about the deep-sky objects (mostly star clusters) that will be well-placed for observation in January. The dates provided in our list are the nights when the objects are highest in the sky. All the objects will reach the highest point at around midnight local time. You can find all these and many other deep-sky objects in the sky using our Sky Tonight app.

Contents

Little Beehive Cluster (M41, NGC 2287)

  • Date: January 2, 2023
  • Magnitude: 4.5
  • Constellation: Canis Major
  • Moon illumination: 89%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 49°N
  • How to observe: The Little Beehive Cluster is visible through 10x50 binoculars or a small telescope. You can find it near Sirius in Canis Major — the brightest star in the sky. At southern latitudes, the waxing gibbous Moon won’t hinder your observations as it will sink below the horizon soon after midnight.
  • Description: Messier 41 is an open star cluster discovered by Italian astronomer Giovanni Batista Hodierna sometime before 1654. The cluster is approximately 25 light-years in diameter; it occupies an area about the size of the Full Moon in the sky and contains about 100 stars. It is estimated to be 190 million years old and might disintegrate in 300 million years.

M47 (NGC 2422)

  • Date: January 15, 2023
  • Magnitude: 4.4
  • Constellation: Puppis
  • Moon illumination: 35%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes between 55°N and 84°S
  • How to observe: Messier 47 is visible through 10x50 binoculars or a small telescope; under a perfectly dark sky, you can even try to see it with the naked eye. Look for it near Sirius in Canis Major. The waning crescent Moon won’t pose much of an obstacle for observations.
  • Description: As well as M44, the M47 open cluster was discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna sometime before 1654. The cluster is about 14 light-years in diameter, and its apparent size is roughly the same as that of the Full Moon. M47 is approximately 78 million years old and contains about 500 stars.

NGC 2403 (Caldwell 7)

  • Date: January 15, 2023
  • Magnitude: 8.9
  • Constellation: Camelopardalis
  • Moon illumination: 35%
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes down to 4°S
  • How to observe: The NGC 2403 galaxy is unobservable to the naked eye, but you can see it through large binoculars or a small telescope. It will look like an elongated fuzzy patch in the sky, located not far from the north celestial pole. The waning crescent Moon won’t pose a problem for observations; plus, around midnight, it will still be below the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Description: NGC 2403 is an intermediate spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1788. It is a member of the M81 Group of galaxies. NGC 2403 is about 50,000 light-years in diameter.

NGC 2451 🌟

  • Date: January 17, 2023
  • Magnitude: 2.8
  • Constellation: Puppis
  • Moon illumination: 16%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 32°N
  • How to observe: The NGC 2451 star cluster is bright enough to be visible with the naked eye, but it’s better to use binoculars for its observation. You’ll find it at a distance of 4° from the magnitude 2.2 star Naos (also known as Zeta Puppis). The waning crescent Moon won’t hinder your observations.
  • Description: NGC 2451 is an open cluster probably discovered by Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654. It is one of the sky's brightest open clusters and covers an area twice the size of the Full Moon in the sky. In 1996, astronomers confirmed that NGC 2451 was actually two open clusters that lie along the same line of sight.

NGC 2516 (Caldwell 96) 🌟

  • Date: January 20, 2023
  • Magnitude: 3.8
  • Constellation: Carina
  • Moon illumination: 0%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 9°N
  • How to observe: The NGC 2516 star cluster is relatively bright, so you can spot it with the naked eye as a hazy patch in the sky. Still, it’s better to use binoculars or a small telescope to observe it. You can find NGC 2516 at a distance of 3° from the magnitude 1.9 star Avior (Epsilon Carinae), which is one of the stars in the False Cross asterism. The New Moon in the sky will create ideal conditions for observations.
  • Description: NGC 2516 is an open star cluster discovered by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751-1752. It’s sometimes called the Southern Beehive because of its resemblance to the M44 cluster. NGC 2516 has an apparent diameter similar to that of the Full Moon. Its age is estimated to be between 110 and 135 million years.

NGC 2547

  • Date: January 23, 2023
  • Magnitude: 4.7
  • Constellation: Vela
  • Moon illumination: 10%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 20°N
  • How to observe: The NGC 2547 cluster is too faint to be seen with the naked eye, so use a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to view it. The waxing crescent Moon won’t interfere with your observations.
  • Description: NGC 2547 is an open cluster discovered by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751. Astronomers estimate that this star cluster is about 20-30 million years old.

The Beehive Cluster (M44, NGC 2632) 🌟

  • Date: January 31, 2023
  • Magnitude: 3.1
  • Constellation: Cancer
  • Moon illumination: 84%
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes between 89°N and 50°S
  • How to observe: The Beehive Cluster is bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye under dark skies — it will look like a blurry patch of light. Still, 10x50 binoculars or a small telescope are preferable. This object is quite easy to find: it’s positioned halfway between the bright star Regulus in Leo and the stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The almost Full Moon won’t pose much of a problem as it will be positioned quite far from the star cluster.
  • Description: M44 is an open cluster that has been known since ancient times. It was first observed telescopically by Galileo Galilei in 1609. The cluster is about 600 million years old; it contains roughly 1,000 stars and covers an area of about three Full Moons in the sky.

Omicron Velorum Cluster (IC 2391, Caldwell 85) 🌟

  • Date: January 31, 2023
  • Magnitude: 2.5
  • Constellation: Vela
  • Moon illumination: 84%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 16°N
  • How to observe: The Omicron Velorum Cluster is visible to the naked eye, but it’s best to view it through binoculars. You can use the False Cross asterism as a guide — the cluster will be positioned to the west of the asterism. The waxing gibbous Moon won’t interfere with your observations as it will sink below the horizon soon after midnight.
  • Description: IC 2391 is an open cluster that may have been first described by Persian astronomer Al Sufi around 964. It contains about 30 stars and is about 50 million years old. The cluster occupies an area almost twice the size of the Full Moon in the sky.

IC 2395

  • Date: January 31, 2023
  • Magnitude: 4.0
  • Constellation: Vela
  • Moon illumination: 84%
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • Visible at: Latitudes up to 21°N
  • How to observe: IC 2395 is too faint to be seen with the naked eye if the sky is not perfectly dark. So use binoculars or a small telescope for its observation. The almost Full Moon won’t be a problem as it will sink below the horizon soon after midnight.
  • Description: IC 2395 is an open star cluster possibly discovered by French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille. It contains about 45 stars and is between 6 and 18 million years old.

How to find deep-sky objects?

You can easily find any deep-sky object using the Sky Tonight app. Here’s how:

  • Launch the app and tap the magnifier icon at the lower part of the screen;
  • In the Search field, enter the object’s name or designation — for instance, “Beehive Cluster”, “M44”, or “NGC 2632”;
  • Find the object in the search results and tap the blue target icon next to its name (if the object wasn’t found, tap the button below the Search field to continue searching in the remote database);
  • The app will show the object’s current location in the sky;
  • Point your device at the sky and follow the white arrow to find the object.

Bottom line

In January, 8 star clusters and 1 galaxy will be positioned favorably for observation. Some of them will be visible to the naked eye. Try to see as many of them as you can in the sky! If you like deep-sky objects, you can also challenge yourself by taking our fun quiz called “Guess the Nebula”.

Astronomers are weird people and they often name things according to their strange ideas. Let’s see how weird you are – try to guess a nebula’s name from its picture!
Take the quiz!
Image Credit:ESO
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