January Is Full of Gorgeous Views of the Planets for Stargazers

Here are all the beautiful sights you'll find in the night sky throughout the month of January.

best stargazing january 2022
The Milky Way photographed in Indonesia at Mount Rinjani. | Photo by Abdul Azis via Getty Images
The Milky Way photographed in Indonesia at Mount Rinjani. | Photo by Abdul Azis via Getty Images

A whole new year has landed. It might be the dead of winter, but it's a great month to look up under the night sky

January will bring outstanding opportunities to view planets and stars. Mercury will be in a good position for viewing, Saturn and Jupiter will have a close encounter with the moon, Mars is returning to the night sky and will visit the moon toward the end of the month, and the moon will make a trek across the winter hexagon.

Here are all of the best stargazing events taking place in January.  

January 2: The New Moon

The new moon is notable because the handful of days around the new moon are ideal for stargazers. You're going to get the darkest skies of the month in the days that surround the new moon. It's not a bad way to start the new year, even if it's bitter cold out.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

January 4-5: The Moon Passes Saturn & Jupiter

The moon's monthly pass with the gas giants happens early in January. Just after sunset the night of January 4, you will see the crescent moon about five degrees from Saturn, which has a yellowish hue in the southwest sky. That's close enough to see them together through binoculars, per Space.com. You'll also be able to see Mercury below the pair and Jupiter above. 

The following night, the crescent moon will sit about four degrees—about a palm's width—below Jupiter, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The solar system's largest planet will reside above Saturn. Just like the night before, you'll be able to see them after sunset in the southwestern sky. 

January 7: Mercury Gets High in the Night Sky

Well, that's a bit relative, really. Mercury never gets that high in the sky. Due to its positioning near the sun, it only rises a little off the horizon around either sunrise or sunset, depending on its positioning. The night of January 7 will see the little, steamy planet reach its furthest eastern elongation, per Space.com. That means right around sunset, you can find Mercury just above the horizon in the west-southwest sky. It won't be up for long, but it's one of the best views stargazers in the northern hemisphere will get for a little while. By the middle of January, Mercury will get lost in the twilight and will no longer be visible. 

best january stargazing events
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

January 13-16: The Moon Crosses the Winter Hexagon & Milky Way

The winter hexagon—sometimes called the winter circle or winter football—is an asterism comprised of six stars. Each is the brightest star in a separate constellation, rising high above us in the winter sky. Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor & Pollux, and Procyon are the stars that are part of the constellations Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Minor.

The moon will cross the asterism over a series of nights, as it does each month through the winter, providing a great opportunity to watch the movement of the sky across nights. The winter hexagon will sit high in the southeastern sky. If you're under exceptionally dark skies, the Milky Way cuts through the winter hexagon as well. The moon hits the western side of the hexagon on January 13 and will trek across it until the night of January 16.

January 17: Full Wolf Moon

The full moon alights on January 17. It's often called the Wolf Moon and its arrival means you're going to have some light interference if you're trying to go out stargazing. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

January 29-30: Mars and the Moon Come Together With Venus Nearby

Venus will have an interesting month. On January 8-9, it's going to be closer to Earth than any planet has been in a century. It'll be just 0.266 Astronomical Units or 24.7 million miles away, according to Space.com. It'll then appear in the pre-dawn sky later in the month, brightening significantly. You'll be able to see Venus and the crescent moon together in the pre-dawn sky on January 29-30. They won't be on top of each other, but they should make a nice tableau in conjunction with Mars, which will be even closer to the moon than Venus. 

All Month: Mars is Back

Mars is coming back into view for us. It passed out of view behind the sun and is just returning. The red planet will continue to get brighter and rise in the sky over the coming months.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.