January Night Sky

When planning what to look at in the night sky, for some objects all you need to know is the month – so, for example, in January, Orion, and its famous Nebula,  will still be well placed in the sky, as they are every January. Solar system objects move on more complex cycles, but still mostly in ways that can be predicted far in advance – so, this January, Jupiter will also be well placed for observing, and that could have been predicted a century ago.

But some types of objects can appear out of the blue ( black?). On 17 August this year, Terry Lovejoy,an Australian amateur astronomer, discovered a new comet which now bears his name, using an 8″ reflector telescope ( nothing very special). The comet was very faint when discovered, but has been getting much brighter, and is now heading north. It will be at its best for European observers during January, when it should be visible with the naked eye, and certainly will be in binoculars, as a fuzzy patch. The map below (from Astronomy Now) shows where you can find it. It will be easiest to see between Jan 10 and Jan 25, when moonlight should not be a problem.

This is Lovejoy’s 5th comet discovery. It is another reminder of the important role that amateurs still have in observing the night sky. C2014Q2_path_among_the_stars_951x951