What to see in the sky in January: Wolf Moon, Quadrantids meteors and ISS

A meteor during the Perseid meteor shower seen over Happisburgh lighthouse, Norfolk.

A meteor during the Perseid meteor shower seen over Happisburgh lighthouse, Norfolk. - Credit: PA Wire

From the International Space Station to comets and meteors - here are some things to look out for in the sky this month.

The Moon

Phases for January are as follows:

  • New moon - January 2
  • First quarter - January 9 
  • Wolf Moon - January 17
    • This moon gets its name from early Native American tribes who observed hungry wolves howling at the moon outside their camps around the same time of year.
  • Last quarter - January 25

The Planets and Stars

There was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn earlier in December and the planets have been slowly separating since.

Mercury will get thrown into the mix in early January, creating a trio in the southwest just after sunset. Jupiter will shine the brightest.

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Saturn will be lost in the middle of the month, leaving only Jupiter and Mercury visible. Mercury will continue to climb through January.

Venus' and Mars' best visibility is at the very end of the month and can both be seen to the southwest. Hunting for Venus can be dangerous, make sure the Sun has gone down before you start looking.

Neptune and Uranus have their best visibility at the very start of the month and are visible in the south-southwest. Uranus is just visible to the naked eye while binoculars will be needed to spot Neptune.

To the northeast the Herdsman constellation will be visible near the Plough. Orion's stars are also easy to spot in the winter sky. Sirius will be among the brightest stars throughout January.

The International Space Station will be visible over the UK from January 23 to 31 from 5.40pm to 6.30pm, it will travel from the west or the southwest to the east and southeast.

Meteors

The Quadrantids shower can be seen between December 28 and January 12 and will peak on January 3 and 4.

They are characterised as blue meteors with fine trains. There will be approximately 120 meteors an hour.

It is one of three showers a year that have a reliably high rate of meteors. However, Quadrantids meteors are often fainter than others and seen less often due to the narrow time frame of visibility.

Comet 88P/Howell will be visible eastward 90 minutes after sunset. Comet 141P/Machholz 2 will be visible to the south and Comet C/2019 N1 may be seen just south.