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The Planets

Planet Data For January

Click on any planet below to go straight to its section.

MercuryVenusMarsJupiterSaturnUranusNeptuneObs for All

The table below shows key data for the planets this month, including rise, transit and set times, as well as magnitude, apparent size and position data (right ascension and declination).

Events that occur when the sun is below the horizon are shown with a black background and white text. All other events happen when the sun is in the sky and other for not visible for observation.

In January, we can see all of the planets as Mars finally comes back to view and just before we lose Saturn from the evening sky. Mercury is a stunning morning planet this month – with some of its best views for the whole of 2024 – as is Venus.

Jupiter is still bold and brassy in the early evening sky, while Uranus and Neptune can both compete for telescope views at the same time.

It’s very rare that we can see all seven planets in the same night, so don’t miss this opportunity to track down your favorites.

All of the images below can be opened full screen in a new tab by clicking on them


Mercury

05th January

Mercury is 9° over the southeast horizon 40 minutes before sunrise, giving some of the best views of the 2024.

15th January

At a similar time and position ten days later, Mercury shines at magnitude -0.2 and is two-thirds lit.

25th January

Also at 7 a.m., we see that Mercury is pulling closer to the sun once again.

2024 gets off to a flying start, as far as Mercury is concerned, as we see it reach its greatest distance from the sun on the 12th of January. Coupled with a more vertical ecliptic, we’ll get some of the best views of Mercury in 2024 in its first few days.

This small planet is actually travelling away from us, so its tiny disc shrinks from eight to five arcseconds wide during January. It also becomes more illuminated as it travels towards the back side of the sun; at the beginning of January, your telescope will reveal that the Mercurian disc is less than 1/3rd lit, by the end of the month, this has swelled to 88%.

The net payoff of the growing illumination versus the shrinking disc is that the planet keeps getting brighter, reaching magnitude -0.3 by the end of the month.

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Venus

05th January

An hour before sunrise and Venus is 15° high in the southeast.

15th January

At the same time ten days later, it’s now 12° high and dazzles at magnitude -4.0.

25th January

Also at 6:30, Venus is just 10° high. Your telescope reveals a disc that’s 85% lit.

Venus is also moving back towards the sun, so our view of it wanes this month as it steadily shrinks back towards the horizon close to sunrise. It reaches its greatest separation on the ninth of this month and then begins a 6-month journey back to pass behind our star.

Similarly to Mercury, the Venusian disc shrinks as the proportion of it lit by the sun grows, resulting in very little change to its exceptional brightness. On the first day of 2024, Venus is 14 arcseconds wide and 78% illuminated. At the end of January, this has changed to 12 arcseconds wide and 86% lit.

If you’re a morning astronomer, January holds plenty of opportunity to spy on our sister planet.

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Mars

05th January

Mars just breaks the horizon half an hour or so before sunrise. Don’t expect to be able to see it yet.

15th January

Not much has changed ten days later, but Mars is steadily pulling away from the sun.

25th January

At 7a.m. today, Mars will be 5° high in the southeast, and close enough to bright Mercury for us to find it.

It’s finally coming back!

They’re only little strides this month but, by the end of January, there’s a decent chance we’ll be able to spy the Red Planet for the first time in a long while.

Don’t expect to see too much though. Even by the end of the month, its disc is a measly four arcseconds wide, putting it on a par with Uranus. Mars is considerable brighter than that more distant planet, shining at magnitude 1.3 by the end of January.

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Jupiter

05th January

At 7 p.m., Jupiter is large and bright in the south. In fact, it’s the brightest evening object except for the moon.

15th January

Ten days later and at the same time, we can see Jupiter shining at magnitude -2.5.

25th January

Towards the end of January your telescope will reveal the Jovian disc is still about 40 arcseconds wide.

January is still a great month to spy on Jupiter. It transits (reaches its highest) in the early evening giving us all the opportunity to see it at its best.

This great planet is travelling away from us, so this is the last really good month to spy it, and we’ll see its disc shrink about 10% from the beginning to the end of January as it travels towards the sun. It doesn’t pass behind our star for another four months yet though.

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Saturn

05th January

At 6:30 in the evening, Saturn is 26° high in the southwest.

15th January

This shrinks to 21° just ten days later as the ringed planet closes in on the sun.

25th January

At the end of January, Saturn sets before 8 p.m. and will very soon disappear from view.

Saturn reaches superior conjunction, when it passes behind the sun, on 28 February. That means that January is our last decent opportunity to see it in the evening sky until after spring.

This month, we’re much better off hunting for it in the first days than the last. At the beginning of 2024, Saturn sets at 9 p.m., but it’s closer to 19:30 at the end of the month. Whenever you choose to look for it, the sooner you can do it after dark, the higher in the sky it’ll be.

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Uranus & Neptune

15th January – Uranus

In the middle of January, Uranus transits around 8 p.m., which is the scene played out above. Note it’s midway between Jupiter and the Pleiades.

15th January – Neptune

At 7 p.m. today, the most distant planet is almost obscured by the moon – so we’re better off looking for it earlier in January, when the moon isn’t out.

Both of our most distant planets have great evening visibility this month. Because of their small and dim discs, they’re better seen when the moon is washing the night sky out, so look for them in the first half of January when we have dark skies.

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All Planets Viewer

Use the table below to see when each of the planets is observable for each day this month. Click on it for full screen.

A planet is classed as observable when it is more than 10° above the horizon and the sky is dark enough for it to be observed.

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Planet ephemeris tables produced with the kind permission of Dominic Ford. Sky images are courtesy of SkySafari Pro 6.

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