Mercury Meets Saturn And A New ‘Morning Star’ Appears: What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week
Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: January 10-16, 2022
This week is good for planet-spotting and moongazing. After its apparition in the evening sky for much of 2021 Venus re-appears in the morning sky while Mercury is now rising after sunset. As the week progresses let the waxing gibbous Moon guide you through some of the most beautiful winter constellations—Taurus, Auriga and Gemini.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022: Venus appears in the morning sky
Look to the eastern horizon just before sunrise and you’ll see Venus, appearing for the first time in the morning sky since its trip through the sun’s glare as it transited from the evening sky. It will rise higher into the sky—and be more easily visible in darkness—with each passing morning this week.
Thursday, January 13, 2022: Mercury closes in on Saturn
The tiny inner planet is riding high this week. Look to the southwest about 30 minutes after sunset and you may glimpse (probably while using any pair of binoculars) Mercury as a reddish dot about 3.4º from the ringed planet Saturn. Both planets will soon be gone from the evening sky so take a lingering look.
Friday, January 14, 2022: Moon between the bull’s horns
A 92%-lit waxing gibbous Moon will tonight be visible between Zeta Tauri and Alnath, the two stars that mark the ends of the horns of Taurus, the bull (more below). Look high in the east.
Saturday, January 15, 2022: A near-full Moon in Gemini
Tonight a 99%-lit waxing gibbous Moon will be flank the bright stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation of Gemini.
Constellation of the week: Taurus
A zodiacal constellation—one our Sun appears to travel through each year—Taurus, the bull, tends to get overshadowed by nearby Orion.
A jewel of the winter night sky in its own right, have a go at finding bright orange supergiant star Aldebaran—the “eye of the bull”—and trace-out the V-shaped horns of the bull that stretch above to two stars, Zeta Tauri and Alnath, the latter of which is above Orion.
The stunning open cluster, the Pleiades, is very close.
Object of the week: Mercury
Since it orbits the Sun every 88 days, the tiny planet Mercury pings briefly into, then back out, the pre-dawn and post-sunset night sky. It rarely appears to get far from the Sun.
However, this week it becomes an evening object, rising slightly higher each successive evening. It’s a great chance to spot it, though you may need binoculars.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.