Supernova in M82! An 11th-magnitude supernova has gone off in the galaxy M82 in Ursa Major. It's in the evening sky in reach of amateur telescopes, and it may not be done brightening yet. See our article Bright Supernova in M82, with ongoing updates.
Friday, January 24
Saturday, January 25
Sunday, January 26
Monday, January 27
Tuesday, January 28
In Wednesday's dawn, look for the eerily thin waning crescent Moon below Venus now. They're low in the southeast, as shown here.
Wednesday, January 29
Thursday, January 30
Friday, January 31
Saturday, February 1
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (magnitude –0.9) is having an excellent apparition in the evening twilight. Look low in the west-southwest as twilight fades.
Venus (magnitude –4.6) shines brightly in the dawn; look east-southeast. It gets higher every day. Venus is revealed as a crescent in a telescope or even good binoculars.
Mars (magnitude +0.4, in Virgo) rises around 11 p.m. It's just 5° from Spica, not quite as bright, to its lower right. Compare their colors; Spica is icy blue-white. They're highest in the south around 4 a.m., with Spica now under Mars.
In a telescope Mars is about 8 arcseconds wide. It'll appear nearly twice this diameter (15.1″) when passing closest to Earth in mid-April.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, in Gemini) dominates the eastern sky in early evening and crosses nearly overhead (for mid-northern observers) around 10 p.m.
Saturn (magnitude +0.5, in Libra) rises around 1 or 2 a.m. and is high in the south-southeast as dawn begins to brighten. By then it's far to the left of Mars and Spica (and less far to the upper right of Antares).
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is still findable in the west-southwest right after dark. Finder chart.
Neptune is beginning to disappear into the evening twilight.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.
Eastern Standard Time (EST) is Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.
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