Think you can’t find planets, identify bright stars, or find constellations you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise.
This month (Jan 2013) the Moon will pass by the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus. The bright stars to see are Aldebaran, Rigel, Betelgeuse, Sirius, Procyon, Pollux, Castor, Capella, Spica and Regulus. We say good-by this month to the star Fomalhaut and welcome the star Antares, a red super giant and the constellation Scorpius.
This is set up for Aurora, Colorado (Mountain Time). Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but close enough for finding the planets and bright stars easily.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On January 1 the Moon will be below bright star Regulus in the constellation Leo the lion. The two somewhat bright stars to the right of the Moon are Pollux (left) and Castor (right) the Gemini twins.
On January 2-3 the Moon remains in Leo moving eastward away from Regulus.
On January 4 the Moon moves to the constellation Virgo the virgin. The bright star to the above and left of the Moon is Arcturus in Bootes the herdsman. To the left and slightly below the Moon is Spica the brightest star in Virgo. To the left of Spica is Saturn. The Moon will next to Spica on the fifth. The Moon’s phase is third (or last) quarter. At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours. Note how the Moon will thin and plunge toward the rising sun in the next six days.
On January 5 the Moon will be just to the right of Spica.
On January 6 the Moon is still in Virgo between and below Saturn (left) and Spica (right).
On January 7 the Moon enters the constellation Libra the scales. There are no bright stars in Libra. Saturn is above and to the right of the Moon. The bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes the herdsman can be seen above Moon and Saturn.
On January 8 the Moon moves into the constellation Scorpius the scorpion. The Moon sits above the bright star Antares a red super giant. See if you can detect the red hue. If Antares were the Sun the Earth and Mars would be orbiting inside of it. The bright star Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes the herdsman can be seen on the right of the Moon.
On January 9 a very thin crescent moon enters the constellation Ophiuchus the serpent-bearer and thirteenth constellation of the Zodiac. Astrologically the Zodiac has only twelve. Below and left of the Moon on the horizon is Venus.
On January 10 the Moon has passed Venus and is lost in the glare of the rising Sun. The Moon will reappear as a thin crescent in the evening sky in the few days.
On January 11 the Moon is new rising and setting with the Sun. The Moon has moved from the morning side of the Sun to the evening side of the Sun. The Moon will be difficult to see in the glare of the setting Sun for the next few days.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset
On January 13 look west south west about 40 minutes after sunset (4:56 PM MST) for a very thin crescent moon. Below the Moon is the planet Mars. The glare of the setting Sun could be a problem. The Moon is in Capricornus, the goat. There are no noticeably bright stars in Capricornus.
On January 14 the waxing crescent moon is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aquarius.
On January 15-18 the Moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces. The Moon is at first quarter or a half moon on the eighteenth. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago.
On January 19 the Moon is in the constellation Aries the ram. There are no bright stars in Aries. The bright star to the left is Jupiter.
On January 20 the Moon is in the constellation Taurus the bull. Jupiter is just to the left of the Moon. The star Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, is below Jupiter. Above and to the left of the Moon is a small group stars called the Pleiades or seven sisters which is absolutely marvelous in binoculars. It may be difficult to see with the Moon’s glare. If so wait a few days when the Moon moves well out of the area.
On January 21 the Moon will be very close to Jupiter. If you have a digital camera try taking a couple of pictures.
On January 23 the Moon is in the middle of winter’s brightest stars. Above the Moon almost overhead is the bright star Capella, the goat star, in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. Below the right of the Moon are the bright stars Betelgeuse a red giant. The bright star below and to the right of Betelgeuse is Rigel a blue giant. Both are in the constellation of Orion. To the left of the Moon are two not so bright stars Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper) the Gemini twins. Below the twins and the Moon is Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor the little dog. Below and right of Procyon, above the horizon is Sirius, the Dog Star, in Canis Major the large dog. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky.
On January 26 the Moon is full. When the Moon is full it moves from the evening side of the sun to the morning side of the Sun. For more detailed information about this month’s full moon including names go here. The Moon is in Cancer, the crab. There are no noticeably bright stars in Cancer. The bright star to the right of the Moon is Procyon.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On January 28 the Moon is in Leo. The Moon sits below Regulus as it was at the beginning of the month.
On January 31 the Moon enters the constellation Virgo and sits between Spica (left and Regulus (right).
Wishing you clear skies