Monthly Skywatchers' Page

For London and the UK

Sun And Nine Planets
The Sun and eight major planets (plus KBO Pluto) to scale. Earth is third planet from the left.


Introduction

The location of the stars and constellations can be learnt throughout a single year from books, mobile phone or planetarium software. Each month of the year, the same stars are visible from a given location. Different stars and constellations are visible as the year progresses. For example, in London, the constellation of Orion is always visible in the evenings of winter months of January and February. Scorpius is visible in the summer months of June and July around midnight.

The planets resemble stars except that, generally, they do not twinkle. Unlike the stars whose patterns are fixed, planets wander through the sky changing their positions amongst the starry background. This means that their periods of visibility change as the relative position of the Earth, Sun and planet vary. In one year Mars may be visible in August at midnight. In another year it may be behind the Sun and invisible from Earth during August.

This page gives the details of visibility for the five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also gives information about comets, meteor showers and non-regular phenomena like eclipses, transits and occultations.

The Observers' Glossary explains the terms used. Alternatively run the mouse cursor over terms in maroon.


The descriptions below are for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, especially London and the United Kingdom.
The planetary information is valid for any location at the same or similar Latitude (51.5°N).
Note that a degree in the sky is twice the apparent diameter of the Moon.

All times on this page are London (UK) times. This is normally GMT (Greenwich Mean Time also known as Universal Time).
In the United Kingdom, the clocks go forward by one hour for British Summer Time (BST) between mid March and late October.
A 24 hour clock is used so that 7pm is written 19:00.


January 2022

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury is an evening object for the first two weeks of the year setting about an hour and a half after the Sun in the South West.

Mercury is quite bright (brighter than Saturn) but will be low down, close to the horizon, and will fade during January.

The planet is in a straight line with Jupiter and Saturn and will be to the right of the thin crescent Moon on 4th.

As January progresses Mercury and Saturn will move closer together until the middle of the month when both planets will become lost in the evening twilight.

Mercury and the Moon
Looking South West at 17:00 on 4th.
Mercury is to the right of the Moon close to the horizon.
Saturn is above the Moon and Jupiter is top left.
Note that the three evening planets are in a straight line.

Venus

Venus

Venus is visible in the evening sky for the first few days of the year before disappearing into the evening twilight.

The planet is in at inferior conjunction on 9th.

After this date Venus will appear low in the morning sky during the last ten days of the month.

Venus will be rising in the South East two hours before the Sun. On 21st the planet will be to the left of the much fainter Mars giving an opportunity to locate the red planet.

The pair move closer together during the rest of January and they are joined by the old crescent Moon on 29th.

Venus and the Moon
Looking South East at 07:00 on 29th.
The brilliant Venus is to the left of the crescent Moon.
The fainter but red, Mars is between them.

This is the beginning of a morning apparition of Venus that will last for most of 2022.

Mars

Mars

Mars continues to rise at around 6pm throughout the month to the South of East.

The planet is in Ophiuchus (moving to Sagittarius on 20th) and is not bright as it is almost on the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth.

Mars is joined by Venus and the two will be level on 21st. The brightest and (currently) faintest of the naked eye planets will move closer together as the month progresses.

They are joined by the old crescent Moon on 29th.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter is visible in the South and sets around 8pm at the beginning of January.

The planet is brighter than any star and is prominent among the faint stars of Aquarius.

Jupiter will be above the Moon on 5th and to the right on 6th.

By the end of the month the planet will be becoming lost in the evening twilight as its current apparition ends.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn sets before Jupiter in the South East and may be spotted between Jupiter and Mercury for the first half of the month.

The planet will be above the crescent Moon on 4th.

Sun

The Sun

After the Winter Solstice in late December, the days now begin to get longer in the Northern Hemisphere.

During January the length of the day in London increases from 7 hours 56 minutes to 9 hours 07 minutes, an increase of over an hour.

The time of midday (as measured by the Sun) begins the month at 12:04 but moves quickly forward to end the month at 12:13. This causes the slowly increasing daylight to be shunted into the afternoon.

For example on 14th, the Sun rises at 08:00 (giving exactly four hours of daylight before 12:00 Noon) and sets at 16:19 (giving 4 hours and 19 minutes of daylight after 12:00 Noon). From 1st to 15th, the time of sunrise changes from 08:06 to 07:59. This is a 7 minute change over two weeks. During the same period the time of sunset changes from 16:02 to 16:20, an increase of 18 minutes. During the first half of January, the evenings begin to get lighter while the mornings stay dark.

On 4th January at 06:54, the Earth will be at its closest to the Sun in its annual orbit. This is called Perihelion from the Greek for "near" and "Sun".

At perihelion, the Sun's distance from the Earth is 147.1 million km (as compared to 152.1 million km in early July). This is a difference of some 5 million km (or 3% of the total distance). The closer Sun gives the Northern Hemisphere winter 7% more heat than it would otherwise receive from the Sun. Also, the Earth is moving faster in its orbit around the Sun. This speed variation makes winter in the Northern Hemisphere 89 days long whereas the Northern Hemisphere summer lasts for 93 days. The speed variation is also one of the causes of the variable time of midday described above.

The Sun's distance from the Earth does not cause the seasons. These are caused by the Earth's axis being tilted at an angle of 23.5° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. It is this that causes both the length of the day and the noon day altitude of the Sun to vary throughout the year. It also causes the seasons to be reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Sun is in the constellation of Sagittarius at the beginning of January moving into Capricornus on 19th.

Only astrologers refer to this constellation as Capricorn.

Note that the astronomical Zodiac dates (the actual Zodiac dates that you can see by observation) do not tie in with astrology as astrologers are using dates from two thousand years ago.

Date Sunrise Midday Sunset Length of Day Sun's Noon Altitude Notes
01-Jan
08:06
12:04
16:02
07h 56m
15.6°
 
02-Jan
08:06
12:04
16:03
07h 57m
15.7°
New Moon at 18:33
03-Jan
08:05
12:04
16:04
07h 58m
15.8°
Perihelion at 06:54
04-Jan
08:05
12:05
16:05
07h 59m
15.9°
Moon close to Mercury and Saturn
05-Jan
08:05
12:05
16:06
08h 01m
16.0°
Moon close to Jupiter - 8 hour day
06-Jan
08:04
12:06
16:07
08h 03m
16.1°
Moon close to Jupiter
07-Jan
08:04
12:06
16:09
08h 04m
16.2°
 
08-Jan
08:04
12:07
16:10
08h 06m
16.3°
Evening Half Moon
09-Jan
08:03
12:07
16:11
08h 08m
16.5°
 
10-Jan
08:03
12:08
16:13
08h 10m
16.6°
Mercury close to Saturn
11-Jan
08:02
12:08
16:14
08h 12m
16.8°
Mercury close to Saturn
12-Jan
08:01
12:08
16:16
08h 14m
16.9°
Mercury close to Saturn
13-Jan
08:01
12:09
16:17
08h 16m
17.1°
Mercury close to Saturn
14-Jan
08:00
12:09
16:19
08h 18m
17.3°
Mercury close to Saturn - 8am sunrise
15-Jan
07:59
12:09
16:20
08h 21m
17.5°
Mercury close to Saturn
16-Jan
07:58
12:10
16:22
08h 23m
17.7°
 
17-Jan
07:57
12:10
16:23
08h 26m
17.9°
Full Moon at 23:48 (Cancer)
18-Jan
07:56
12:10
16:25
08h 28m
18.1°
 
19-Jan
07:55
12:11
16:27
08h 31m
18.3°
 
20-Jan
07:54
12:11
16:28
08h 34m
18.5°
 
21-Jan
07:53
12:11
16:30
08h 36m
18.7°
 
22-Jan
07:52
12:12
16:32
08h 39m
18.9°
 
23-Jan
07:51
12:12
16:33
08h 42m
19.2°
 
24-Jan
07:50
12:12
16:35
08h 45m
19.4°
 
25-Jan
07:48
12:12
16:37
08h 48m
19.6°
Morning Half Moon
26-Jan
07:47
12:12
16:39
08h 51m
19.9°
 
27-Jan
07:46
12:13
16:40
08h 54m
20.1°
 
28-Jan
07:44
12:13
16:42
08h 57m
20.4°
 
29-Jan
07:43
12:13
16:44
09h 01m
20.7°
Moon close to Venus and Mars - 9 hour day
30-Jan
07:41
12:13
16:46
09h 04m
20.9°
Venus close to Mars
31-Jan
07:40
12:13
16:48
09h 07m
21.2°
Venus close to Mars

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Mercury on 4th.

The Moon will be close to Saturn on 4th.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 5th.

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 6th.

The Moon will be close to Venus on 29th.

The Moon will be close to Mars on 29th.


It is easy to depend on astronomy or CMMS software to perform daily computational activities and to keep track of data. Astronomy enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of software options, while facility managers may have fewer options if they require CMMS software for their business.


Next Month

Jupiter in the evening (beginning of month), Mars and Venus in the morning.


All times on this page are London (UK) times.

Sources: Astronomy Now magazine, Cybersky, Starry Night Pro, USA Naval Observatory and UK Nautical Almanac Office.

© 2021 KryssTal
All sky images by Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Eclipse predictions (maps) courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC


Books From Amazon.co.uk


Observers' Glossary

An explanation of the terms used by sky observers. Includes descriptions of how the objects of the solar system behave in the sky as seen from Earth (especially the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes).


KryssTal Related Pages

Tables and data about the Sun, Earth, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets. All terms used are explained.

An account of how various properties of stars can be measured by studying starlight. Includes brightness, distance, luminosity, temperature, mass, radius, density and an introduction to the H-R Diagram.

A table containing a list of the 20 brightest stars in the Earth's sky. Explanations of all the associated terms like magnitude, spectral type and radial velocity.

A detailed account about eclipses, transits and occultations. These are irregular phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Includes eclipse trips around the world with photos and well as photos of recent transists of Mercury and Venus.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from believing Creation Myths to postulating the Inflationary Big Bang Theory. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people who broadened our understanding.

What do we mean by the words day, week, month, year? Who invented our calendar? When did the third millennium begin? The relation between time and astronomy.

The force that moves apples and planets. A short introduction to the ideas of Kepler and Newton that culminated with the theory of Universal Gravitation.

A look at the mathematics of a sphere with a section on sundials and the equation of time.


External Skywatching Links

These links will open in a separate window

StarDate Online
An excellent online skywatchers' magazine featuring detailed monthly information about astronomical events.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
A different image each day with an extensive archive and explanations.

Telescope House
A London based source of astronomical equipment, telescopes, software, maps and books.

Starry Night Pro
Superb planetarium software. Simulate the sky from anywhere on the Earth and any time.