Planets to spot in January

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Here's our Planetarium demonstrator, John Moran, to tell us what planets we can look out for in the night sky this month...


Saturn. Image courtesy of NASA.

Hope you’re all over your Christmas hangovers! Well if you’re looking for a good way to involve the kids in science without having to go anywhere, then you should get out in the back garden. There are planets galore this month in the night sky for those of you with telescopes.

Jupiter, the king of planets, is unmistakable as it is so bright. Try viewing the Galilean’s (which are the four planet sized moons orbiting this gas giant, named after the man who discovered them, Galileo) at about 8pm. Check the position of the moons, then leave your telescope set up and go back to it two hours later and you will find that the moons have changed position. Also look for the equatorial bands and the great Red Spot on Jupiter too. It’s a really rewarding object to view.

Next up is the home to many a spaceman story, the red planet Mars. Swing your telescope towards the east at around about 10pm (but the kids should be in bed by now!) and look for Mars behind the constellation of Leo. Again, it is unmistakable as it is clearly red and it doesn’t twinkle. If you’re lucky you may get to see the polar icecaps.

Lastly, for our viewing pleasure, we have the ringed beauty Saturn following behind Mars from 1am. Your telescope will clearly show off the gorgeous ring system and the gap between rings and planet. Nothing will prepare you for the first time you see the rings of Saturn, it truly is one of the most breathtaking sights. See what you think when you first glimpse it and let me know...