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January's best night sky event

The Earth reaches perihelion Saturday night.
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Posted at 9:15 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 21:28:57-05

Stargazers will want to listen up, and read on! You typically wouldn't think of January as a great time of year to check out the night sky. But there will be a number a big events all within the first two weeks of the new year. From a meteor shower, to the Earth's closest approach to the Sun, to a full moon. This all happens befor the middle of January.

The new year begins with the peak of Quadrantid meteor shower. This is one of the best meteor showers of the year with 50 to 100 meteors per hour during the shower's peak. The Quadrantids will peak tonight, however viewing conditions will be poor given the rain, clouds, and fog. But you still have a chance to catch this first meteor shower of the year. Sky conditions will improve later in the weekend, and the shower continues through January 12th. The Quadrantids are known for their fireballs, extra bright and sometimes colorful meteors. These meteors radiate from a constellation just beyond the tip of the Big Dipper's handle. Look high in the northeast sky.

The second event of the weekend occurs when Earth reaches perihelion very early Sunday morning. This is occurs when the Earth's orbit reach its closest point to the Sun. The Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, it is elliptical. At perihelion the Earth is approximately 91 million miles from the Sun. This summer we will be at aphelion, or the farthest point, which is 94 million miles away. Perihelion and aphelion come a few weeks after the winter and summer solstices, respectively. Remember proximity to the Sun doesn't dictate the seasons. It's the Earth tilt on its axis that determines the seasons in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Finally, on January 10th the Full "Wolf" Moon will rise in the night sky. January's full moon is only known as the Old Moon. This month's full moon coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse. This type of eclipse occurs when the Moon comes in contact with Earth's shadow. Moonlight is slightly dimmed. The penumbral lunar eclipse will be visible for all of Europe, eastern Africa, and Asia. North America won't witness this one.