Astronomy Essentials

Visible planets, stars, the moon and more in January

Find these visible planets in January 2022:
Venus
Jupiter
Saturn
Mercury
Mars

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
Visible planets, stars, the moon and more
January 2022 visible planets in depth
The moon’s monthly journey
January 2022 heliocentric solar system

EarthSky’s 2022 lunar calendars are available now! We’re guaranteed to sell out, so get one while you can. Makes a great gift!

Visible planets, stars, the moon and more

Latest sunrises: Multicoloured background with dark lower edge and with a faint beam of yellow on left side.
If you get up early, you know that, in early January, your sunrises are still coming very late. In fact, they’re the latest sunrises of the year for people at mid-northern latitudes (say, the latitude of the central U.S.). Overall, the shortest day for either is the winter solstice. But the latest sunrises always follow the solstice. That’s due to an unvarying sequence each year – earliest sunset before the winter solstice (in early December for the Northern Hemisphere), shortest day at the winter solstice around December 21, latest sunrise following the solstice (in early January for the Northern Hemisphere). This natural order is what we can expect every year, on our tilted Earth, pursuing our elliptical orbit around the sun. Read more about the Northern Hemisphere’s latest sunrises. Photo by Susan Ogan in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Thank you, Susan!
Cartoon by Sara Zimmerman of Unearthed Comics showing Earth in a dance with the sun
Earth swings closest to the sun for 2022 at 06:52 UTC (1:52 a.m. Eastern Time EST) on January 4. This closest Earth-sun distance is called perihelion, from the Greek roots peri meaning near and helios meaning sun. In early January, we’re about 3% closer to the sun – roughly 3 million miles (5 million km) – than we are during Earth’s aphelion (farthest point from the sun) in early July. That’s in contrast to our average distance of about 93 million miles (150 million km). Read more about Earth at perihelion. Cartoon via Sara Zimmerman at UnEarthed Comics. Woo-hoo!
alt caption
Following new moon on January 2, 2022, the young moon – a waxing crescent – will return to the west after sunset. It’ll pass 4 planets. Bright Venus will be exceedingly near the sunset glare … will you see it? It’ll be hard. Mercury, too, will be difficult to see when the moon passes by on January 3. But on January 4 and 5, if your sky is clear, you should easily see the young moon near Saturn and Jupiter. Read more about the moon and planets after sunset January 3 to 5. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Chart showing orbits of Earth and Venus.
View larger. | Venus travels one step inward from Earth in orbit around the sun. Its orbit is smaller than Earth’s. It has less distance to cover. And it moves faster in orbit (about 35 km/sec in contrast to about 30 km/sec for Earth). So Venus goes between us and the sun every so often. And, at such times, astronomers say it’s in inferior conjunction with the sun. Venus comes to inferior conjunction in 2022 at 1 UTC on January 9 (7 p.m. CST on January 8). Will you see Venus on the day of inferior conjunction? It’s not likely, unless you’re an extremely careful and experienced telescopic observer. After all, on the day of inferior conjunction, Venus will be crossing the sky with the sun during the day. Read more about Venus at inferior conjunction. Illustration by John Jardine Goss.
Star chart with red arrow from Orion to Aldebaran and 3 positions of the moon.
January 12, 13, 14, 2022: The waxing gibbous moon slides past the dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster and the bright star Aldebaran – fiery eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus – on January 12 and 13. Then look for the moon above the easy-to-see constellation Orion the Hunter on January 14. Notice the 3 stars of Orion’s Belt. They point to Aldebaran. Read more about the Pleiades, Aldebaran and Orion. Chart by John Jardine Goss.
Chart showing Venus, Mars, crescent moon near slanted green line of ecliptic.
By the morning of January 29, 2022, the crescent moon will form a line with faint Mars and brilliant Venus. Mars is now far across the solar system from Earth, having passed behind the sun as seen from Earth on October 8, 2021. Read more about Mars. Venus is relatively nearby, and very bright, having passed between us and the sun on January 8-9, 2022. Read more about Venus.

January 2022 visible planets in depth

Also see the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Venus spent December 2021 sliding sunward, dropping closer to the sunset point as western twilight darkens each day. As the year ends, you might catch Venus exceedingly near the sunset glare. It’ll soon disappear entirely, though, for all but the most experienced and dedicated skywatchers. That’s because Venus is about to move between the Earth and sun in its smaller, faster orbit. It’ll be nearest the Earth-sun line – at inferior conjunction – on January 8-9, 2022.

At inferior conjunction, Venus will officially leave our evening sky, and enter our morning sky.

You might catch Venus on January 3, as the moon sweeps past.

And some veteran observers will be trying to glimpse Venus all the way to January 8-9, the day it passes between us and the sun. If you’re not experienced, best not to try it unless you know how to observe near the sun safely.

So most of us won’t see Venus again until after mid-January. Then, one morning shortly before sunup, as you face east, you’ll notice a surprisingly bright object. Each morning, it’ll rise a little earlier and climb a little higher, before morning twilight drowns it from view. That very bright morning object will be Venus.

On January 29, a thin crescent moon – what astronomers call an old moon – will join the scene, floating near Venus in the eastern predawn sky.

Aim a pair of well-focused binoculars toward Venus around then. In January 2022 – because it’s nearby and because its lighted portion of “day” side is facing mostly away from us – we on Earth see Venus as a tiny crescent.

By the end of January 2022, Venus will be especially bright. It’ll be bright enough to be seen in the daytime. Check this out for yourself by spotting Venus 30 minutes before sunrise. Follow it in the brightening sky by situating yourself so that it appears placed just above a distant reference object such as a utility pole or a tree. Keep it placed above the reference object as the minutes pass. You still will be able to see it after the sun rises, and you can keep following it for the rest of the morning.

Venus was brightest for 2021 around December 3. Another greatest brilliancy for Venus will come on February 12, 2022.

Jupiter is the second-brightest planet. As January begins, and Venus disappears, Jupiter will become the evening sky’s brightest “star.” But Jupiter is also sinking toward the sunset glare. From mid-northern temperate latitudes, by the beginning of January, it will appear near the sunset point in early evening for only about 40 minutes after sunset.

Saturn is still near Jupiter in our sky, nearly a year after their late 2020 great conjunction. Saturn is fainter than Jupiter, and its faintness against a background of bright evening twilight will make it harder to spot. Saturn will be shining about as brightly as some of the brighter stars, though, such as Altair, which will be twinkling near Saturn on early January evenings.

Helping to positively identify the ringed planet, the thin crescent moon glows immediately south of Saturn on January 4. On the evening of January 5, the crescent moon will glow just south of Jupiter.

We mentioned above that Venus will pass between the sun and Earth on January 9, 2022. Jupiter and Saturn have big, huge orbits, much wider than Earth’s. They can’t go between us and the sun, but instead are aiming now toward the far side of the sun from Earth. And they’ll still be around – briefly, not far from the sunset – as January 2022 begins. But, by the middle of January, Saturn will be lost in bright evening twilight. Saturn will reach its superior conjunction – when it is most directly behind the sun as seen from Earth – on February 4, 2022. We’ll see Saturn next in the east before sunup, beginning around mid-March.

Jupiter will linger in the evening sky into early February. Jupiter will reach its superior conjunction (when it’s most directly behind the sun as seen from Earth) on March 5, 2022. Afterwards, like Saturn, Jupiter will emerge into the dawn sky. That’ll likely happen in late March or early April, depending on your location on the globe (Southern Hemisphere observers will likely spot it sooner than us in the north).

By April 2022 mornings, both planets will be in the east before dawn, beginning another cycle of visibility in our sky. This cycle for these outer planets, by the way, is driven mostly by the length of Earth’s year-long orbit around the sun.

In 2022, Saturn will reach its opposition – when Earth passes between it and the sun – on August 14. Jupiter’s opposition will come on September 26.

Mercury was nowhere to be found for most of December 2021. It was moving around the far side of the blinding sun, as seen from Earth. But by the last several evenings of the year, Mercury’s angular distance from the sun on our sky’s dome was great enough that we glimpsed the planet, briefly, perhaps 30 minutes after sunset, in the sunset direction.

On January 3, the thin waxing crescent moon floats between Mercury and the sunset horizon, helping to identify this sometimes-elusive little planet.

Over the first week of January, Mercury is climbing a little higher as it swings away from the sunset, approaching its greatest apparent distance from the sun in our sky – 19.2 degrees – on January 7. This is Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation. Afterwards, Mercury will drop closer to the horizon each evening. It’ll quickly become lost in the bright twilight after mid-January. Much as Venus does on January 9, Mercury will fly between us and the sun on January 23. It’ll be lost in the solar glare for the rest of the month.

Mars, too, has been traveling behind the sun from Earth. In Mars’ case, it’s been gone for several months. By late December 2021, Mars was just visible, with difficulty, in the direction of sunrise, before the sun came up. And throughout January, it is the same. Mars can be seen very low in the east before sunrise.

These early-morning sightings – so near the sun – can be tricky. If you look too early, Mars won’t have risen yet. If you look too late, bright twilight will drown Mars from view.

Yet January 2022 is the time to begin following Mars in earnest. It’ll grow brighter – and brighter – over the first 11 months of 2022, in other words, for most of the year. It’ll be brightest as Earth passes between Mars and the sun in December 2022.

By the second half of January, you’ll find both Venus and Mars in the east before sunrise. Venus will be exceedingly bright. Mars will be exceedingly faint. How far apart will they be? Make a fist on your outstretched arm. Place Venus on the left edge of your fist. Mars will be on the right edge.

On January 29, the old moon will join Venus and Mars, forming an intriguing celestial line-up: brilliant Venus, far-dimmer Mars and the glowing crescent moon.

The moon’s monthly journey

Throughout every month – as the moon makes its monthly circuit of Earth – the moon passes near planets and stars, creating interesting scenes in our night sky.

January 3: Immediately after sunset, the thin waxing moon floats to the left of bright Venus which shines very low above the sunset horizon. Mercury is also there, fainter than Venus, near the moon. Because of its low altitude in the brightening twilight and because of its thin crescent, the moon and planets will be a challenge to spot.

January 4: The moon lies directly southeast of Saturn and east of Mercury 40 minutes after sunset.

January 5: Bright Jupiter appears north of the crescent moon 60 minutes after sunset in the southwest.

January 12: The waxing gibbous moon glows south of the Pleiades and west of the star Aldebaran for most of the night.

January 13: The bright gibbous moon lies immediately north of Aldebaran.

January 14: The almost full moon hangs high above Orion with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel all night.

January 16 and 17: The bright moon lies in Gemini near the twin stars of Castor and Pollux.

Overnight on January 19: The waning gibbous moon moves north of the brightest star in Leo, Regulus.

January 24: the almost third quarter moon slides north of Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

January 27: the waning crescent moon moves among the stars of the “Crown of Scorpius,” and just to the northwest of the bright star Antares.

January 29: the thin waning crescent moon glows with earthshine in the southeast 60 minutes before sunrise. Dim Mars lies directly east of the moon.

January 2022 heliocentric solar system

The sun-centered chart below comes from Guy Ottewell. You’ll find charts like these for every month of 2022 in his Astronomical Calendar.

View larger. | Heliocentric view of solar system, December 2021. Guy Ottwell explains: “In these views from ecliptic north, arrows (thinner when south of the ecliptic plane) are the paths of the 4 inner planets. Dots along the rest of the orbits are 5 days apart (and are black for the part of its course that a planet has trodden since the beginning of the year). Semicircles show the sunlit side of the new and full moon (vastly exaggerated in size and distance). Pairs of lines point outward to the more remote planets. Phenomena such as perihelia (represented by ticks) and conjunctions (represented by lines between planets) are at dates that can be found in the Astronomical Calendar. Gray covers the half of the universe below the horizon around 10 p.m. at mid- month (as seen from the equator). The zodiacal constellations are in directions from the Earth at mid-month (not from the sun).” Chart via Guy Ottewell.

Some resources to enjoy

Don’t miss anything. Subscribe to daily emails from EarthSky. It’s free!

Visit EarthSky’s Best Places to Stargaze to find a dark-sky location near you.

Post your planet photos at EarthSky Community Photos.

Visit Stellarium-Web or TheSkyLive for precise views from your location

The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides specific planet rise and set info (U.S. and Canada)

Timeanddate.com provides specific planet rise and set info (worldwide)

Click here for recommended almanacs to find out precise rise and set times

Translate Universal Time (UTC) to your time

Read: Ecliptic is the sun’s path in our sky

Read: Planet-observing is easy. Top tips here

Check out the indispensable Observer’s Handbook, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Back by popular demand! Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar for 2022

Great resource and beautiful wall chart: Guy Ottewell’s zodiac wavy chart

Photo of a chair, a large plant, and the zodiac waxy chart above them.
Guy Ottewell’s Zodiac Wavy Chart is a 2-by-3 foot poster displaying the movements of the sun, moon, and planets throughout the year. You can purchase it here.

Which ones are the visible planets?

In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These are the planets easily visible without an optical aid. They’re the planets watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. These planets do appear bright in our sky. They are typically as bright as – or brighter than – the brightest stars. Plus, these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars.

You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.

Visible planets: Silhouette of a man against the sunset sky with a bright planet and the crescent moon.
Skywatcher. Image via Predrag Agatonovic.

Bottom line: All you need to know about finding bright planets, stars and more in January 2022.

Help EarthSky keep going! Donate now.

Posted 
January 1, 2022
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

John Jardine Goss

View All