Poster’s Note: The text for this month’s installment from Dee Sharples, “The Sky In January 2024,” is provided below. Those wishing to listen to the article can click on the audio link below.
On January 2, the Earth will be at perihelion, its closest point to the Sun for the entire year. It will be 3% closer to the Sun at 91.4 million miles than at aphelion in July when it will reach its farthest point of 94.5 million miles away. Contrary to what some people think, it’s not the closeness to the Sun which determines Earth’s seasons but the tilted axis of our planet. During the year as the Earth circles the Sun, different areas of our planet receive the Sun’s most direct rays. When the Earth’s North Pole tilts toward the Sun, the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer. Six months later when the South Pole tilts toward the Sun, we get less direct rays for a shorter time and experience winter here in the Rochester area.
The Moon is an important character in several beautiful sights in the early morning and evening sky in January.
January 8: Before the Sun rises, look to the southeast to see the crescent Moon close to Antares, the red-hued and brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. The planet Venus, brilliant at magnitude -4.0, can be easily seen to the upper left.
January 9: A crescent Moon, Venus, and the planet Mercury form a triangle just above the southeastern horizon before dawn.
January 14: As the Sun sets, a waxing crescent Moon can be found to the upper left of Saturn dimly shining at magnitude 0.98 in the southwest.
January 18: At dusk look high in the southern sky for the first quarter Moon about 3° to the upper left of bright Jupiter shining at magnitude -2.5.
January 20: As the Sun sets, face southeast to see a waxing gibbous Moon shining 5° to the lower left of the Pleiades, a lovely asterism and open star cluster, commonly known as the Seven Sisters. Use binoculars to enhance the beauty of the stars that form the Pleiades.
January 25-27: An almost full Moon has a main role in a drama starring the constellation Leo the Lion. Look east around 8:00 p.m. on all three evenings.
For any outside observing this month, dress in layers to stay warm. It is January!