Look up! Our printable sky map for January 2019 helps you navigate the stars and constellations! This month, we track Orion the Hunter, his two dogs, his prey, a meandering river, fish, and a sea monster!
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
For Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest of the 12 months. What a shame, then, that one of the best sky shows of the whole year occurs in the weeks just after New Year’s Day. We need a strategy for enjoying the celestial sights of January without risking frozen fingers. The key is to break down your January sky-gazing into three or four short sessions spread across several nights. The first 10 days of January are an ideal time to give this technique a try. During this period, the Moon is absent in the evening when most of us do our observing, making faint stars easier to see. The air is usually quite dry, too, resulting in conditions that reveal the heavens with breathtaking clarity.
Orion the Hunter
Looking south on January nights, it’s hard to miss Orion, the Hunter, the brightest of all constellations. Thus, Orion is the ideal starting point for each of your New Year’s sky-gazing excursions. Orion is packed with bright stars that make its human-like shape easy to spot. Four bright stars— Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel, and Saiph—mark the shoulders and knees of the Hunter, while a slanting line of three stars marks his Belt.
Once you trace out the stars of Orion for the first time, you’ll never have trouble spotting him again. See more night sky highlights below the sky map.
January 2018 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge this map (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
To Orion’s lower left is the brightest of all stars, Sirius, which is known as the Dog Star; appropriately enough, it lies in the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog. If there is a Greater Dog, there ought to be a Lesser Dog, and there is. The first bright star to the upper left of Orion is Procyon, part of Canis Minor. Together, the two dogs help Orion to hunt down his prey.
The Hunted Hare and the River
Below Orion are two dimmer constellations that many sky-gazers never notice—but a clear January night is an opportunity to see them. The first is the compact constellation Lepus, the Hare (or Rabbit), forever being hunted by Orion and his dogs. A tougher challenge is the sprawling constellation Eridanus, the River, which meanders from Orion all the way down to the horizon. If you are far from city lights, give it a try.
Eye of Taurus
To Orion’s upper right, look for the reddish star Aldebaran, which represents the eye of Taurus, the Bull. Two bright star clusters reside in Taurus, a loose collection called the Hyades near Aldebaran and the very compact Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Automobile buffs may already know that the badge on the front grille of every Subaru car represents the Pleiades.
The Fishes and the Sea Monster
Stretched out to the right of Taurus are four well-known asterisms (unofficial star patterns). Two of them are roundish shapes known as “circlets,” one in Pisces, the Fishes, and the other in Cetus, the Sea Monster.
Look for the planet Mars not far from Pisces’ Circlet. Pisces is also home to the distinctive Vee asterism. Above the Circlet of Pisces is the aptly named Great Square of Pegasus, which encloses a substantial area of sky that is nearly devoid of stars.
Depending on the temperature, it may take a few nights to hunt down all of these January wonders, but one of the best skies of the year makes the search well worthwhile.
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.