Astronomical SIGHTS in a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated Jan 20, 2019.

See also the HOME page or COMING EVENTS .

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for Winter 2018/2019:

Venus is the obvious Morning Star in December and January. Mercury is closer to the Sun and takes up the role of second Morning Star for a short while in December but then returns to the western sky in February. Jupiter is also in the morning sky and sits between Venus and Mercury just above Antares for a time.

Both of the gas giants,
Uranus and Neptune are well up in the south by dark and continue to be good viewing this winter. Both are past their respective oppositions. Mars is still reasonably bright and noticeably gibbous in a telescope and traverses the gap between Neptune and Uranus over the December to February time span. It is right beside Neptune Dec 7 and right beside Uranus Feb 12.

Saturn passes behind the Sun in early January and by mid-Jan, becomes visible as a morning star. I is passed by Venus (1 degree apart) on Feb 18. Only Mars is well up (50°!) in the evening sky above the SW horizon and it will continue to be high for several months shining as a faint reddish star at magnitude 1.

Dwarf planet, Pluto is in Sagittarius and will not be visible until spring when the Sun leaves the vicinity. Even then, it will be visible only in moonless sky and with larger telescopes. 2019 Finder charts for all planets, dwarf planets and asteroids are found on our CHARTS/FORMS page.

January/February 2019 Sky Sights

Jan 1, 2019 -1st week or two -continue viewing Comet Wirtanen
The first week or two of the new year is a good time to view this comet since the crescent Moon sets before midnight and the comet is well up by then. Wirtanen has been spotted and imaged on several occasions by several BAS observers in December and though it is fading, it is still visible in small telescopes. There are also two other comets in the sky, also fading, but also well placed high above the horizon. So if you are out checking on 46P/ have a look for 38P/ and 64P/ as well. See VIS.COMETS for info about those and check the WEBLOG for more about Wirtanen. Chart below shows daily position for Wirtanen from Jan 13 to Feb 16. Note that the gibbous moon brightens the sky in the middle two weeks of January. Full Moon is on Jan 20/21 the night of the lunar eclipse.

Wirtanen Jan 13 to mid-Feb

Comet Wirtanen hangs around in Ursa Major for the next month or so as it fades.

Jan 20/21, 2019 TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE!
[Please note U2 and U3 times in diagram are now correct.]
The last January eclipse (Jan 31, 2018) was clouded out locally, but we get a second chance at seeing one on the evening of Jan 20, morning of Jan 21. And this time clouds better clear since the next good total lunar eclipse is not until May 2021 and then we get another in November the same year!

As in other lunar eclipses, note that the penumbral contacts (P1 and P4) will not be visible, and the eclipse starts when the darker umbra contacts the Moon, i.e., U1 (10:34 pm) and ends at U4 (1:51 am Jan 21). Middle of the eclipse is 12:12 am Jan 21. Totality is from 11:41 pm Jan 20 to 12:43 am Jan 21. In past eclipses, the umbral darkening was visible several minutes before the official time, because that shadow edge is not actually as sharp as the diagram shows.

Jan 20-21-LEc-corrected-times

Here are the official times from Fred Espenak’s website :

P1 = 9:36 pm EST Jan 20 Penumbral eclipse starts (not visible)
U1 = 10:34 pm EST 1st contact (look for shadow upper right)
U2 = 11:41 pm EST Jan 20 Totality starts (entire Moon covered!)
U3 = 12:43 am EST Jan 21 Totality ends (bright sliver starts at upper left of Moon)
U4 = 1:51 am EST 3rd contact (partial ends eclipse essentially over)
P4 = 2:48 am EST Penumbral eclipse ends -not visible. Moon

Greatest eclipse occurs at 12:12 am Jan 21 and the duration of the umbral phase of the eclipse is 62 minutes.

Imaging the eclipse is interesting and this one will be well placed in our sky for wide angle images showing the entire eclipse in one shot. Hints on imaging the eclipse cane found here:

Jan 20-24, 2019 Jupiter and Venus less than 3° apart in Dawn Sky
The brightest objects in the sky (next to the Moon and Sun) meet up for a slow, close pass on the mornings of Jan 21 to Jan 24. Jupiter is at magnitude -1.83, Venus is at -4.31 and if you wait until chart time below (7:07 am EST), Saturn peeks above the eastern horizon at magnitude 0.54. The separation between Venus and Jupiter stays about 2°24’ for the entire three hours or so that the two are visible before sunrise at 7:52 am EST on Jan 22 morning but the pair will be visible with under 3° separation from Jan 21 to Jan 24 in the morning sky, so you have a good chance at getting the clouds to cooperate for a view.


Jan 30 to Feb 2, 2019 Crescent Moon passes Jupiter, Venus, Saturn
Look for a repeat of the crescent Moon near three planets in the dawn sky and this time Saturn replaces Mercury (which is transferring over into the evening sky). Jan 30 sees the Moon 6.5° from Jupiter, Venus is 2° left of the Moon on Jan 31, then on Feb 2, Saturn is 3° above the Moon, now only a 2-day old crescent. Diagram from Starry Night below shows the 4 day-old crescent Moon nearest to Venus Jan 31, 2019, (2°) at 6:45 am EST. Since the Moon moves noticeably in an evening, it actually gets closer to Venus as the evening progresses. By moonset (in daylight), the separation will be about 0.7° or about 40 minutes of arc. Moon and Venus are in daylight from dawn around 7:43 am until 1:58 pm or so when the Moon and Venus set in the west. Both objects should be visible in daylight, -Venus at -4.5 and Moon at -10 and probably even to the naked eye. Have a look for them. Images welcome!


Feb 12, 2019 Mars Close Approach to Uranus
Mars is high in the southwestern sky all winter long and on Feb 12 when it passes Uranus, Mars is a whopping 57° high. By 7 pm when it is good and dark, Mars and Uranus are still 45° above the SW horizon so there will be no interference from horizon turbulence. On Feb 12, both planets will fit into a 1° circle as shown in the diagram from Starry Night below. Mars moves noticeably in the 4 or 5 hours between dark and when Mars set at 11:30 or so, so watch for its motion with respect to background stars.

Mars Uranus Feb 12 1°sep

Feb 18, 2019 Mercury Reappears with Neptune, Uranus and Mars in Western Evening Skies
Mercury has been travelling unseen behind the Sun for the last few weeks and finally gets far enough away to be visible as an Evening Star above the western horizon. Look for it to climb higher and higher as February progresses. Its pass of Neptune will not be easily seen on Feb 18 as indicated in the diagram here since it occurs low in twilit skies and Neptune is a faint 8th magnitude, but watch as Mercury pulls away from the horizon and climbs towards Mars and Uranus. By Feb 28, Mercury is 10 degrees higher and near the Circlet of Pisces before it slows down (GEE is Feb 27 at 18°E) and starts back towards the Sun again.

Merc Nept Uran Mars Feb 18 7pm

A summary of the entire 2019 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page). Or here: Amazing Sky Calendar 2019

Meteor shower calendar for 2019 from is available here:
EarthSky Meteor Calendar 2019