Monthly Sky Calendar - January 2011


Jupiter - located in Pisces.  The "king of the planets" can be seen 46 degrees up in the south at sunset during January and remains well placed till about 8 pm EST.  Jupiter will be magnitude -2.3 and have a diameter that decreases from 39 to 36 arc-seconds during the month.

The SEB disturbance first seen by amateurs on November 9, 2010 continues to expand, forming a thin dark belt that now stretches almost halfway around the planet.  This disturbance should continue to spread around the planet, reforming the SEB over the next few months.  The main part of the disturbance follows the GRS by about 3 to 4 hours.  More information and images of the SEB disturbance can be seen here:

Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a large anti-cyclone, can be seen centered on the planet's disc at the following times (EST):

01/02, 07:45 pm 01/12, 06:05 pm 01/24, 06:04 pm
01/05, 05:15 pm 01/14, 07:44 pm 01/26, 07:43 pm
01/07, 06:55 pm 01/17, 05:15 pm 01/29, 05:14 pm
01/09, 08:34 pm 01/19, 06:54 pm 01/31, 06:53 pm

Additional times for viewing the Great Red Spot can be found here:

Some excellent images of Jupiter can be seen here:

A guide for making visual observations of Jupiter can be found here: Jupiter.ppt

Uranus - located in Pisces.  Uranus can best be seen around 6:00 pm EST at mid-month, when it will be 43 degrees up in the SSW.  Look for it only 31 arc-minutes NW of Jupiter on the evening of January 4th.  The two planets will be within 1.5 degrees of each other during the first half of January.  Uranus will be magnitude 5.9 and have a tiny 3.4 arc-second pale green disc.

A finder chart for Uranus can be found here:

At least four of Uranus' moons can be seen with larger amateur scopes.  These moons can be identified using this page:

Saturn - located in Virgo.  The ringed planet is visible in the morning sky.  It rises by 12 am at mid-month and can be see 44 degrees up in the south by 6 am.  Saturn will be magnitude 0.7 with an apparent diameter of 18 arc-seconds.  The rings will be 38 arc-seconds across with a tilt of 10 degrees to our line-of-sight.

The largest storm since 1994 has appeared in Saturn's northern hemisphere.  It has a bright white color and is located in Saturn's North Tropical Zone.  Initially the storm was a small spot but now spans roughly 100 degrees of longitude.  The bright leading edge of the storm can be seen centered on the planet's disc at roughly the following times (EST):


01/02, 07:04 am 01/12, 02:33 am 01/24, 03:33 am
01/03, 04:30 am 01/15, 05:29 am 01/27, 06:28 am
01/06, 07:24 am 01/16, 02:53 am 01/28, 03:52 am
01/07, 04:50 am 01/19, 05:49 am 01/29, 01:16 am
01/10, 07:44 am 01/20, 03:13 am 01/31, 06:48 am
01/11, 05:09 am 01/23, 06:08 am  

More images and information about this rare storm can be seen here:

Some excellent images of Saturn can be seen here:

The Cassini spacecraft continues its observation of Saturn and its many moons and rings.  For the latest images from Cassini, see:

Venus - is the "morning star" until August.  Look for it about 25 to 30 degrees up in the SE just before sunrise.  Venus will be magnitude -4.4 and have a disc that decreases in diameter from 27 to 20 arc-seconds.  Venus will appear half-lit around January 8th.

Here are some recent images of Venus made by amateur astronomers:



Mercury - visible in the morning sky for most of January.  Look for it about 5 to 10 degrees up in the SE, a half-hour before sunrise.  Mercury will be magnitude 0.  The planet's disc will be 6 to 8 arc-seconds in diameter.  The planet's phase will range from a crescent to gibbous as the month progresses.

Mercury received its first visit from a spacecraft in 33 years when the Messenger orbiter flew by in January, 2008.  For the latest images and other details, see:




The Quadrantid Meteor Shower - peaks on the night of January 3/4.  About 30 to 100 Quadrantids might be seen every hour radiating from an area in northern Bootes.  The new Moon will not interfere with meteor watching this year.   Some meteors can be seen in the evening hours since the radiant is circumpolar.  The best times to watch are from 12 am till dawn.  Face north early in the night and east after midnight for the best view.

More information on this shower can be found here:



Mira - the prototype of long period variable stars, reached peak brightness in its 330 day cycle during October.  It varies between magnitude 2 to 9 and is currently magnitude 4.9 and slowly fading.  Mira can best be seen 45 degrees up in the south around 7 pm EST in January.

More information and a finder chart for this variable star can be found here:



Epsilon Aurigae - a unique eclipsing variable star, is nearing the end of its long-awaited eclipse.  This variable is a binary star where one companion eclipses the other once every 27 years.  During an eclipse, Epsilon drops in brightness from magnitude 2.9 to 3.8 and remains at 3.8 for over 1 year before slowly recovering.  The star is currently magnitude 3.6 and will begin to emerge from total eclipse in January.  Epsilon is well placed for viewing from 6 pm till 5 am EST during January.

More information and finder charts for this variable star can be found here:

Updated January 1, 2011

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