A Rare Planetary Trio Will Light up the Night Sky This Month

A Rare Planetary Trio Will Light up the Night Sky This Month
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It’s a new year and that means there are lots of new space-related events to look forward to. In December we were blessed with plenty of huge astronomy movements – including Saturn and Jupiter’s long-awaited conjunction. So how does the space calendar look for January?

January’s Astronomy Highlights

Space events are a bit slower this month, but there are still a few things worth getting out the telescope for in January.

Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter Conjunction

While Jupiter and Saturn may have been at their closest in December, there’s still a chance to catch them rubbing shoulders. As an added bonus in January, Mercury will join the party giving space-watchers the chance to see three planets in close proximity to each other.

For three nights, between January 9-11, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter will come together to form a celestial triangle. To witness this rare event you’ll need an unobstructed view of the horizon, as the planets sit quite low. They’ll only be viewable for an hour or so around dusk, according to EarthSky.

This month is also the last chance to see Jupiter and Saturn before they move into the sun’s glare.

Earth’s Perihelion

January 2 marks the day that the Earth is the closest to the sun for this year. This is called the Earth’s perihelion and occurs each year in early January. On January 2 the Earth will be roughly 5 million km closer to the sun than it is at its furthest point in July.

Quadrantids Meteor Shower

January 3-4 also brings us the first meteor shower of the year, the Quadrantids. Unfortunately, poor weather and our location in the southern hemisphere means Australians won’t catch much action from this one.

January Stargazing

Thanks to those long summer nights, January is a prime opportunity to do some stargazing in Australia. The ABC recommends heading out with your camera, telescope or binoculars around an hour and a half after sunset. Constellations like Orion, the Pleiades and Sirius will be on display.

Other Astronomy dates for January

Here are some other highlights for January 2021:

  • January 2: Earth’s Perihelion
  • January 3-4: Quadrantids Meteor Shower
  • January 9-11: Triple planet conjunction – Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn
  • January 21: Conjunction of Mars and Uranus
  • January 24: Mercury’s greatest elongation
  • January 28: Wolf Moon (the first full moon of the year)

Happy summer stargazing!