Monthly Sky Night Map
Look up with the January 2017 sky map to navigate the stars and constellations in the night sky. On this page is both a color sky map and a black and white printable map to bring outside!
The Brightest Sky of the Year
The combination of crisp, clear winter nights and a southeast sky filled with celestial wonders makes it well worth bundling up, going outside, and scanning the heavens in January.
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Orion, the Hunter, is not the largest constellation, but it is unquestionably the brightest. It’s home to a pair of the sky’s top 10 brightest stars—ruddy Betelgeuse and blue-white Rigel. Star colors are notoriously difficult to discern, but on a clear night, the differing hues of Betelgeuse and Rigel are plain to see at Orion’s right shoulder (to our left) when facing us and left knee (to our right), respectively.
Somewhat less luminous are Bellatrix at the Hunter’s left shoulder (to our right) and the trio Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak that comprise Orion’s Belt. Saiph, at his right knee (to our left), would be a noteworthy star in any other celestial neighborhood, but it doesn’t even crack the top five in mighty Orion.
Above Orion stands Taurus, the Bull, his long horns jutting to the left and one baleful eye represented by the reddish star Aldebaran. Nearby lies a group of stars that make up the Hyades star cluster. The members of the Hyades lie fairly close together in space, but despite its apparent proximity, Aldebaran is not part of the cluster. It is much closer to us than the Hyades (one reason that it appears brighter) and just happens to lie along the same line of sight. This is one of countless examples where celestial objects appear to us to be close to each other when in fact they are far apart.
January 2017 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge this map (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
The Seven Sisters
Above the Hyades are the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, among the most famous of star clusters. The cluster is so distinctive and its location so prominent that dozens of ancient cultures found a place in their mythologies for the Pleiades. Most people with good vision can spy five stars when they gaze at the Pleiades. However, if your eyesight is especially acute and the sky is wonderfully clear, you may see seven or even more. If you do, you have “the eyes of a warrior.”
Off to the left is the five-sided figure of Auriga, the Charioteer. The star Elnath is shared between Auriga and Taurus, making it one of the few stars that belongs to two constellations.
Swinging downward, we find Gemini, the reclining Twins. The twins’ names are Castor and Pollux, and eponymous stars represent their heads. They lie holding hands, their legs and feet stretched out toward Orion.
Continuing counterclockwise around the sky, we reach Canis Minor, the Lesser Dog. Its only bright star is Procyon, a name meaning “before the dog.” This refers to the fact that on any given night, Procyon rises above the horizon a few minutes before the bright star Sirius, aka “the Dog Star.” Thus, Procyon rises “before the dog.”
We’ll skip over the dim constellation Monoceros to reach Canis Major, the Greater Dog. It is home to the aforementioned Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky; it is almost twice as bright as any other star because it is extremely luminous and relatively nearby.
Get out and enjoy the January sky, the brightest of the year!
Enjoy astronomy? Check out Bob Berman’s column, “This Week’s Amazing Sky.”