January Moon & Planet data for 2014

The Solar System in January 2014

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      January  2 at 12.14 am (Jan  1, 11:14 UT)
First quarter: January  8 at  4.39 pm (        03:39 UT)
Full moon:     January 16 at  5.52 pm (        04:52 UT)
Last quarter   January 24 at  6.19 pm (        05:19 UT)
New moon:      January 31 at 10.38 am (Jan 30, 21:38 UT)

The Earth is at perihelion on January 4 at ca 8 pm. The Earth will then be 0.9833 AU, 147.1 million km from the Sun.

The Planets in January

MERCURY is an evening object all month but will be very low and not likely to be visible. It sets only a few minutes after the Sun on the 1st. By the 31st it will set 45 minutes after the Sun. 30 minutes after sunset, at the end of civil twilight, Mercury will be only 3° above the horizon.

VENUS starts January as an evening object but sets only some 45 minutes after the Sun, so will be very low following sunset. Within an evening or two it will have disappeared completely. By the 11th it is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun. At conjunction Venus will be 5° north of the Sun as “seen” from the Earth; its distance from the Earth being 39.8 million km (0.266 AU) and 107.8 million km (0.719 AU) from the Sun.

After conjunction Venus becomes a morning object. During the rest of January it moves quite rapidly up into the morning sky, so that by the end of the month it rises nearly 2 hours before the Sun and making it an easy object in the dawn sky.

MARS remains a morning object throughout January, although it will rise just before midnight by the 31st. The planet will be in Virgo. On the 31st it will be about 5° from Spica. During January Mars brightens from magnitude 0.8 to 0.3.

On the morning of January 23 Mars will be just over 6° from the 66% lit moon, with the planet at the apex of a broad, inverted triangle, with the moon and Spica.

JUPITER is at opposition on January 6 so it will rise close to the time of sunset and set close to the time of sunrise. The planet is well north of the celestial equator so will be rather low in southern skies. Even so, particularly by the end of the month it will be a prominent object between north and northeast late evening. The planet is in Gemini, only 3° from the magnitude 3 star epsilon Gem by the end of January.

The moon, one day short of full, will be 5° from Jupiter on January 15

SATURN is a morning object, rising by 1am at the end of the month, so it will be well up to the northeast an hour before sunrise. The planet is in Libra forming a broad triangle with the two brightest stars of the constellation. It will be equi-distant, 6.5° from each star mid month.

The 35% lit waning moon will occult Saturn on the morning of the 26 January. The reappearance will be visible from New Zealand although the moon and planet will be very low. An occultation of Saturn’s moon Titan also occurs. The time of the reappearance of Saturn is close to 2.02 am for many places in NZ, with Saturn and the moon at an altitude of 5 or 6°. The occultation disappearance of Saturn takes place, at the moon’s lit limb, before moon rise for most of NZ.

Predictions of the precise times of the reappearance at any locality can be obtained using Dave Herald’s Occult program, or contact the writer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. including your precise longitude and latitude in your email.

Outer Planets

Uranus is in Pisces during January. It will set about 1 am on the 1st, and just after 11 pm on the 31st, so by then quite low at the end of twilight.

Neptune is in Aquarius all month. At the beginning of January it will set just before midnight, by the end of January it will set a little over an hour after the Sun, so will become very low in the evening twilight.

Brighter Asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain as morning objects in Virgo a few degrees from one another and a few degrees from Mars. At the beginning of January Vesta will be 8° from Mars with Ceres another 5° away on the other side of Vesta. All three are moving to the east through the stars, their distances apart decreasing slightly during January. By the 31st the three Solar system objects will nearly be in line with Spica, with the star highest in the dawn sky.

Ceres brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during January while Vesta brightens a little more from 7.7 to 7.2. Both will be readily visible in binoculars, their changing position compared to the stars visible from night to night.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and rivals Vesta as the brightest asteroid in the sky. During January it brightens from magnitude 7.9 to 7.3. At the beginning of January, late evening the asteroid will be about 25° up to the east, about 6° above mu Hya (mag 3.8) and 8° to the right of upsilon1 Hya, mag 4.1. During the month Pallas will move towards upsilon Hya, their separation being 5° by the 31st.

Pallas rises just before 9.15 pm at the beginning of January and about 7.30 pm by the month’s end. This latter time is a little before sunset. Even so the asteroid will not set until well after sunrise as it is well south of the ecliptic. At the beginning of January the asteroid is above the horizon for 15 hours as seen from Wellington, reducing slightly to 14.5 hours by the end of the month.

The follwing table lists various solar system object events during January. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

January 1 Moon new
Pluto 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
Pluto at conjunction
Moon at perigee
January 2 Venus 1.9 degrees south of the Moon
January 4 Earth at perihelion
Neptune 5.1 degrees south of the Moon
January 5 Jupiter at opposition
January 7 Uranus 2.9 degrees south of the Moon
January 8 Moon first quarter
January 11 Venus inferior conjunction
January 12 Aldebaran 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
January 13 Moon northern most declination (19.4 degrees)
January 15 Jupiter 4.8 degrees north of the Moon
January 16 Moon at apogee
Moon full
January 19 Regulus 5.0 degrees north of the Moon
January 23 Mars 3.5 degrees north of the Moon
Spica 1.3 degrees south of the Moon
January 24 Moon last quarter
January 25 Saturn 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
January 27 Moon southern most declination (-19.3 degrees)
January 29 Pluto 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
Venus 2.2 degrees north of the Moon
January 30 Moon at perigee
Moon new
January 31 Mercury greatest elong E(18)
Venus stationary
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • perihelion: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Sun