The Monthly Sky for January 2017

All The Planets of our Solar System

by Viktor Zsohar

The beginning of 2017 presents splendid opportunities for amateur astronomers of the Yukon for planetary observations. The January evenings are highlighted by four planets. In the south-western sky, Neptune is luring around Mars and Venus; while Uranus looks down at them from higher altitudes.

Definitely try to observe Mars and Neptune, when they appear to be just 0.02 degrees apart from each other! It is technically the last astronomical event of the year that you can see on December 31st in the evening, but, if we consider time in UTC, as we should, and per the 2017 RASC Observer’s Handbook, then the closest approach falls on January 1st, at 07:00 UTC. But again, observe it on December 31st in the evening, between 6 and 7 pm local time, when your champagne is still in the fridge! If you have never seen Neptune before, this is the time it will be a very easy target for you, and your binoculars, or telescope.

January mornings also brings us beautiful sights of three other bright planets: the brilliant Jupiter leading Saturn and the hideous Mercury. These observations though, are not necessarily easy from the Yukon.

Is there any other planet that you can’t see from the Yukon in January? If you have a wide, clear southern horizon, and the Earth is under your feet, then the answer is: No! Including the Earth, the count of  all known planets in our Solar System is complete now! As for Planet 9, the search is still on!

The honourable mention is not Pluto, but the presence of our Moon. The reason is that our one and only satellite will often spice up the views of the sky for us with the visible nearby the planets.

January 2017 – Yukon Sky Events

January 1.   Mars and Neptune are in close conjunction. Separation is 0.02 degrees. Note that   closest separation time counted in UT falls to January 1st, but actual event can be seen during the evening of December 31, 2016.

January  2.   Venus 1.9°S of Moon. Moon at Descending Node.

January  3.   Mars 0.2° S of Moon

January  3-4.   Quadrantids Meteor Shower. Expected 40 meteors per hour at its peak. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. Meteors radiate from Constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

January  4.   Double shadow transit of moons of Jupiter

January  4.   Earth at Perihelion. At 15:17 UTC distance from the Sun: 0.98331 AU.


January  9.   Mercury 6.7° of Saturn. Aldebaran 0.4°S of Moon

January  10.   Moon at Perigee: 363242 km

January  12.   Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 11:34 UTC.

January  12.   Venus is 0.4 degrees from Neptune. Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation of 47.1 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky.

January  12.   Double-shadow transit of moons of Jupiter

January  13.    Beehive 3.9°N of Moon

January  15.    Regulus 0.9°N of Moon. Moon at Ascending Node.

January  19.   LAST QUARTER MOON.  Jupiter 2.7°S of Moon. Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 24.1 degrees from the Sun.

January  22.    Moon at Apogee: 404913 km

January  24.    Saturn 3.6°S of Moon

January  26.    Mercury 3.7°S of Moon

January  28.   NEW MOON. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

January  29.   Moon at Descending Node

January  31.    Jupiter 3.5°N of Spica. Venus 4.1°N of Moon.



Mercury is observable from the Yukon for a short time, barely above the morning southeastern horizon. Difficult to see though, but not impossible from a hilltop with good SE views. Use binoculars to spot this hideous planet in the dawn between January 11th – 13th. On these days, it shines at about -0.1m brightness, then disappears from the Northern skies.


Venus continues to stand out brightly with about -4.5m, after sunset. Very easy target with naked eye or a binocular pointed at the brightest spot in the evening sky towards southwest. On January 2nd, the crescent Moon still divides Venus from Mars but it can’t stop them to get closer and closer by the end of the month. However, Neptune still wins, by approaching Venus at only 0.4 degrees away on the 12th. Achieves wider conjunction with the Moon on the 2nd, and 31st. It is in quasi-conjunction with Mars from mid-January to mid-February.


Mars is in Aquarius. The red planet is easy to find during January in the evening sky. It sets course to pass Neptune, but remains nearby Venus. The planet’s disk size is, however, only about 5″ diameter, which is quite small, and makes it a disappointing view in astronomical telescopes. On the other hand, it is well worth to view Mars with binoculars! On January 31st, together with Venus and the Moon, it will fit into the field of view ( 6degrees) of a standard (7×50) binocular!


Jupiter is well-located in the Eastern sky, dominating in Virgo before Sun-rise and over-shines Spica by about 16 times, with its -2.0 magnitude brightness. Start to observe the dance of the Galilean satellites around Jupiter this month, and note their double-shadow transits on the 4th and 11th of the month.



Saturn re-appears, but the Ring Planet just barely makes it above the Yukon horizon towards south-southeast by the time the Sun paints the morning sky light blue.


Uranus remains in Constellation Pisces, and is visible during the first part of the night. Well-placed for observation with binoculars and telescopes.




Neptune is setting before Mars in Aquarius in January evenings. Visual magnitude is +7.9m, fainting. As mentioned above, Neptune will have a close conjunction with Mars, on the evening of December 31st. The closest angular separation visible from the Yukon is only 4′, while Neptune is at 51 degrees PA (position angle) from Mars.

In addition, on January 12th, it reaches its closest separation of 0.4 degree from Venus. The closest angular distance that we can see from the Yukon, is 0 degree, 26′, in other words, close to 0.5 degrees. In the reality, the two planets are 30 AU’s far away from each other; this is 30 times the Sun-Earth distance!


On August 21st, 2017, nature’s most wondrous spectacle — a total eclipse of the Sun will take place!   It is a scene of unimaginable beauty; the Moon completely blocks the Sun, daytime becomes a deep twilight, and the Sun’s corona shimmers in the darkened sky. This is your chance to witness a rare celestial event!

A partial Solar Eclipse is NOTHING compared to witnessing the TOTALITY!   The Society is looking for 10 to 12 more interested people to join us on this incredible road trip to Oregon, USA, where the totality can be seen! SEVEN (7) SPOTS HAVE ALREADY BEEN TAKEN!


  • Departure from Whitehorse (Road Trip) – August 12
    • Visit Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake
  • Craters of the Moon & Yellowstone National Parks – August 17-19
  • Total Solar Eclipse of the Sun – August 21(morning)
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park – August 21
    • Visit Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory
  • Arrival to Whitehorse – August 27

Reservation Deadline with payment by April 24th, 2017 – NO EXCEPTION
for ONLY $400.00 CDN* that covers:

  1. Your stay at Farewell Bend, Oregon campsite,
  2. Your accommodation at Best Western Hotel in Yellowstone National Park
  3. Your Park fees to visit Craters of the Moon, Yellowstone, and Bruneau Dunes
  4. Your fuel contribution for group transport to the above mentioned parks

All other costs are NOT covered. Travel arrangements and car pooling possible under independent agreements! Inquire for more details from Anthony and Viktor!   *Reservation fee is non-refundable upon cancellations after April 24, 2017. Reason: We may not be able to  fill your spot at a timely manner if you change your mind after April 24, 2017.


  1. 2016 RASC Observer’s Handbook
  2. Stellarium Software
  3. Starry Nights Pro 7 Software
  4. Astronomy Magazine, January 2017 Issue, pp.36-37
  5. astropixels.com