What’s in the Sky Tonight: January 2023
This January, stargazers from both hemispheres will get a chance to see a bright comet, several noteworthy Moon-planet conjunctions, a mighty meteor shower, and some beautiful constellations.
- January 3: Moon-Mars conjunction
- January 4: Quadrantid meteor shower peak 🌟
- January 6: Full Moon 🌟
- January 11: Manhattanhenge at Sunrise
- January 12: C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at perihelion
- January 21: New Moon
- January 22: Venus-Saturn Conjunction
- January 23: Moon-Saturn & Moon-Venus conjunctions 🌟
- January 26: Moon-Jupiter conjunction
- January 30: Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation 🌟
- January 31: Moon-Mars conjunction 🌟
- What else is in the sky tonight (Northern Hemisphere)
- What else is in the sky tonight (Southern Hemisphere)
- How to navigate the night sky?
- Bottom line
Here are some of the celestial events that you should definitely observe:
- The Quadrantids peak on the night of January 4-5. Although the Moon will be nearly full, one of the strongest meteor showers of the year might provide a decent view.
- The Moon’s closest approach to Venus and Saturn on the same night.
- Mercury at the greatest elongation on January 30. It will be the best time to observe the planet for the next three months.
- The closest Moon-Mars conjunction in 2023. Observers from some parts of the world will see the Moon passing in front of the Red Planet.
Follow the other night sky events of this year with our complete Astronomy Calendar 2023. Don’t have time to read a huge article? Don’t worry, we got you! Here are Top 10 celestial events in 2023 — check it out in the cool infographic format (available in 12 languages).
January 3: Moon-Mars conjunction
On January 3, at 19:51 GMT (2:51 p.m. EST), Mars (magnitude -1.1) will meet the 11-day-old Moon in the constellation Taurus. The apparent distance between the two objects will be only 0°32'. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope comfortably, but you can see the conjunction with the naked eye or binoculars.
Observers from parts of Africa and Maldives will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Mars. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.
January 4: Quadrantid meteor shower peak 🌟
The Quadrantid meteor shower will run from December 12 to January 12 and peak around January 4. Look for its radiant point in the constellation Bootes. Under ideal conditions, you could see up to 110 meteors an hour, though this year, the meteor shower peaks near the Full Moon, whose light will obstruct the view. So, it is better to observe the meteor shower after the moonset until sunrise. The meteor shower will be best seen from the Northern Hemisphere.
January 6: Full Moon 🌟
The Full Wolf Moon will occur on January 6, at 23:08 GMT (6:08 p.m. EST). Our natural satellite will be in the constellation Gemini. Technically, the Full Moon lasts only for a moment when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, but the lunar disk will appear full for one day before and after it.
The Full Moon in January will take place near the apogee, the farthest point in the Moon’s orbit from the Earth. Such a Full Moon is called the Apogee Moon or the Micromoon. It appears slightly smaller and less bright than a usual Full Moon.
January 11: Manhattanhenge at Sunrise
On January 11 and 12, Manhattan citizens will get a chance to see the morning Manhattanhenge. It’s an event when the sunset or sunrise lines up with Manhattan’s crosstown street grid between 14th St and 155th St.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined this name as a reference to the way Stonehenge in England is designed to frame the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset of the winter solstice. Manhattanhenge happens twice on summer sunsets and twice on winter sunrises.
The Manhattanhenge in winter is less popular because it’s cold and early in the morning, but it also means that streets might be less crowded. On January 11 and 12, the Sun will rise around 7:19 a.m. local time. It’s better to get to the observation point about 15 minutes in advance.
January 12: C/2022 E3 (ZTF) at perihelion
The most promising comet of the year, C/2022 E3 (ZTF), will come closest to the Sun on January 12, 2023. The distance between the Sun and the comet during the perihelion will be 1.11 AU. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere and own binoculars or a small telescope, look for the comet traveling from the constellation Corona Borealis to Bootes these days. C/2022 E3 will shine at around magnitude 7. Then the comet will visit Draco and Ursa Minor for a couple of days to reach its brightest on February 1, 2023, in the constellation Camelopardalis. By that time, the comet will be visible around the globe.
January 21: New Moon
The New Moon will occur on January 21, at 20:53 GMT (03:53 p.m. EST). At this point, our natural satellite will stay between the Earth and the Sun, so its bright side will be facing away from the Earth. It’s the best time for stargazing because the Moon’s light won’t hinder the view.
January 22: Venus-Saturn Conjunction
On January 22, at 21:53 GMT (04:53 p.m. EST), Venus (magnitude -3.9) will pass 0°21' to the south of Saturn (magnitude 0.7). They will meet in the constellation Capricornus. The planets will fit together in the field of view of a telescope, but you can also see them with a pair of binoculars or even with the naked eye.
January 23: Moon-Saturn & Moon-Venus conjunctions 🌟
On January 23, at 07:22 GMT (02:22 a.m. EST), Saturn (magnitude 0.7) will meet the 2-day-old Moon in the constellation Capricornus. The apparent distance between the two objects will be 3°49'. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope, but you’ll see the conjunction with the naked eye or binoculars.
Later this day, at 08:20 GMT (03:20 a.m. EST), the Moon will pass near Venus (magnitude -3.9). The distance between the two bodies will be 3°27', which is too far to fit within the field of view of a telescope. Luckily, they will be bright enough to spot without any optical devices.
January 26: Moon-Jupiter conjunction
On January 26, at 02:03 GMT (January 25, 09:03 p.m. EST), Jupiter (magnitude -2.2) will meet the 5-day-old Moon in the constellation Pisces. The apparent distance between the two objects will be 1°48'. It’s too far to spot them at once via telescope, but you’ll see the conjunction with the naked eye or binoculars.
January 30: Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation 🌟
On January 30, at 09:05 GMT (04:05 a.m. EST), Mercury will reach the farthest point west from the Sun in the sky. The event is called the greatest elongation. The elusive planet will shine at a magnitude of -0.2 in the constellation Sagittarius, separated by 24° from our star. It’s the best time to observe Mercury because the Sun’s light doesn’t hinder the view. Look for Mercury in the sunrise direction.
January 31: Moon-Mars conjunction 🌟
On January 31, at 04:27 GMT (January 30, 11:27 p.m. EST), Mars (magnitude -0.3) will meet the 11-day-old Moon in the constellation Taurus. The apparent distance between the two objects will be only 0°06'. This will be their closest conjunction this year. The Moon and Mars will be close enough to spot them at once via telescope, but you can see the conjunction with binoculars or even with the naked eye.
Observers from parts of the Americas will have a chance to see the Moon passing in front of Mars. The event is called lunar occultation and can only be observed from certain parts of the world; the rest will see the conjunction.
What else is in the sky tonight (Northern Hemisphere)
January deep sky objects
- January 15: NGC 2403 (magnitude 8.9)
- January 31: The Beehive Cluster (magnitude 3.1)
The famous Pleiades (magnitude 1.6) will also prominently shine in January-February. Look for them around 8 p.m. local time in the constellation Taurus. With the condition of dark skies, the star cluster is visible to the naked eye.
Orion is among the brightest and easiest-to-find constellations. It hosts ruby Betelgeuse and bluish-white Rigel (two of the ten brightest stars in the night sky) as well as Orion’s Belt (the famous asterism of three stars in a straight line).
The home for the Pleiades and reddish Aldebaran, Taurus is among the most well-known constellations in the northern latitudes. The three stars of Orion’s Belt will guide you to the constellation’s brightest star.
For the Northern Hemisphere observers, winter is the best time to see one of the southern constellations, Canis Major. It follows Orion up from the horizon, heading from southeast to southwest. Canis Major features the brightest star of the night sky — Sirius — so the constellation is pretty easy to find.
Before heading out to stargaze on cold winter nights, you might want to test your stars-guessing skills. Take our quiz and see if you can identify all stars correctly just from their location in the night sky.
What else is in the sky tonight (Southern Hemisphere)
January deep sky objects
- January 2: Little Beehive Cluster (magnitude 4.5)
- January 15: M47 (magnitude 4.4)
- January 17: NGC 2451 (magnitude 2.8)
- January 20: NGC 2516 (magnitude 3.8)
- January 23: NGC 2547 (magnitude 4.7)
- January 31: Omicron Velorum Cluster (magnitude 2.5)
- January 31: IC 2395 (magnitude 4.0)
In addition, lucky southern observers get to see the beautiful Large Magellanic Cloud (magnitude 0.9) and Small Magellanic Cloud (magnitude 2) — the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. In the Southern Hemisphere, they’re visible every night of the year because they’re south circumpolar (located close enough to the south celestial pole, so they never set).
Invisible to observers north of the equator, Dorado contains most of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Small Dorado is best visible on January nights, but, in general, this constellation is faint and hard to identify. Its brightest star Alpha Doradus has a magnitude of only 3.3.
Mensa is also among the smallest constellations in the sky. It doesn’t have any stars brighter than magnitude 3.0, but as well as Dorado host the Large Magellanic Cloud. Spot it at around 9 p.m. local time.
Faint Caelum is best visible around 9 p.m. local time in January. This constellation is definitely for more advanced stargazers due to its tiny size (it's the eighth-smallest of all 88 constellations) and inconspicuous appearance (Caelum doesn’t feature stars brighter than 4th magnitude).
How to navigate the night sky?
You can easily identify sky objects using the Sky Tonight app. Launch the app and point it up; the app will show you the interactive sky map for your location. Tap the big blue button in the lower right corner of your screen to turn on the AR mode; it will overlay the sky map on the real sky image from your camera.
Stargazers from all over the world will get to see a bright comet, several Moon-planet conjunctions, a prolific meteor shower, a micromoon, and other night sky events this January. To navigate across the sky, use Sky Tonight — it will help you to identify stars, planets, and more.