What's in the night sky of the week of 2 to 8 January 2023 in our weekly stargazing guide.

Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com or digital edition by visiting on iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Greetings listeners and welcome to Star Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the Northern Hemisphere's night sky as we are based here in the UK all times are in GMT and this episode will be covering the coming week from 2 to 8 of January. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money. Hello Paul.

Paul Hello Ezzy and happy New Year.

Ezzy Happy New Year to you as well. Because yes, this podcast is going out on 1 January, so the first day of 2023. And we're going to be taking a look ahead at the next week in terms of stargazing, but also giving a little glimpse about what's coming up over the rest of the year. So, Paul, what are your recommendations for this week?

Paul Well, let's kick off. We're dealing with a few events for this week and then we can take a look ahead, shall we? So we talking about 2 and 3 January, and basically we're back to our usual friend, the moon sort of thing. But the thing about the moon is it lies to the lower right of the Pleiades, Messier 45 on 2 Jan. It is heading towards fall. So, you know, it's quite a gibbous phase in actual fact. But the 3rd, it'll be quite close to Mars. Now, I have to say, there will be no occultation. You know, we've had that in December and Ezzy, amazingly through cloud, I actually saw it and we've always said about getting up haven't we? We've always thought about early morning things. This was a silly clock time. We stayed up all night. Mad. I was downstairs all the time. I did settle down those that sort of thing for for about an hour, but I didn't sleep sort of thing in the end. So I stayed up and then looked out and it was clear when I went indoors those sort of thing. When I went outside, it clouded. But I managed to see it through. But I didn't see the egress.

Ezzy You did better than a lot of us here in Bristol. We unfortunately... I got clouded out. I did get up, but I took one look out the window and then went back to bed.

Paul You know, I reckon if I had gone to bed and looked out the window when I woke up, when the clock went, I think I would have gone back to bed myself. As I was already up I thought, may as well try, and I could see Mars in binoculars through the thin clouds, so I thought 'I have a chance here'. I think that's the key. I mean, if it was thicker cloud, I probably would have given up completely. And in fact, not long after I had two things happen, it set behind the house. So that wouldn't have helped. But also the cloud thickened up, so I'd completely lost the moon. So if you can't see the moon, that's a bad job. And if you can't see the Moon, you really are in trouble, aren't you? So. Yeah, so. So let's say on 3 January we have got the moon. Not occulting Mars this time, but it is quite close. I mean, we are talking probably about a degree and a half. So it is a quite close call as such. Now on 3 as well, we usually have the Quadrantids meteor shower and we still will have. But the problem is that Moon is going to interfere. Now, the good thing with the Quadrantids is they are circumpolar. So you can pretty much see them all through the night. So if you prepared to wait until about 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning when the moon finally set or out of the way, then fair enough sort of thing. But as a rule, I probably won't stay up for that one. You know, I'd rather wait until there was no Moon. So that's the third is the Quadrantids meteor shower. But it does give us a chance to look ahead. There are also really good meteor showers this year.

Ezzy Absolutely.

Paul So let's have a little kick off with the meteor showers because as it happens, the April Lyrids peak on 23 April, Perseids on the 12 and 13 of August, the Orionids on 21, 22 October and the Leonids on 17 and 18 November. And finally the Geminids on 13 and 14 December and creeping into the 14, 15. And what's more, they're all favourable. I mean.

Ezzy Wow.

Paul I reckon this is the year for meteor showers personally sort of thing. So this is probably going to be the year where we have total cloud cover. I know I've just passed by, but you know, this is going to be a good year.

Ezzy There's at least three pretty major meteor showers there which I think will be worth looking out for. So hopefully not all of them will be clouded out, but we'll get at least one nice one.

Paul I know that's always the hope isn't it? Even if you just get one, you know, you'll be excited sort of thing. So yeah, and of course we all tend to prefer the warmer one, which is the Perseids, being in August sort of thing, but the Geminids are the other major shower. And of course, you know, we have to look forward to clear skies for that. Because it's the same old story. Thin cloud will completely wreck them. So you do need a clear sky for the meteor watching. But yeah, it's looking like a really good year. So let's just hope we have some really good clear skies for coinciding for all these meteor showers as well. So it's nice to have a nice run of them instead of thinking bad, bad, bad, bad. Bad enough worrying about cloud isn't it.

Ezzy 2022 was not a great year for meteor showers. Most of the big ones had a bright moon on them, so it's really great to be able to see that they will be favourable. The moon will be set because meteor showers... I always like a good meteor shower. It's something that... It's very accessible. It's very you don't need. In fact, it's better to watch a meteor shower without expensive equipment. Just go out there and look at it with your eyes. So even if the Quadrantids maybe aren't too great this year, we've got some other great ones coming, so that'll be good to look forward to.

Paul And the make great family events don't they? I mean, you know, you grab the, you know, the family out, go outside, get them to wrap up if it's the colder months. But you know the excitement when you do see it and if you get a bright one, the oohs and ahs are brilliant sort of thing. And sometimes it's enough to actually convince others to actually think, oh, I'll take this up as well.

Ezzy Is I think one of the good things about meteor showers as well is because astronomy can be quite a solitary hobby. You know, it's one person and they're looking through the telescope at what they can see and maybe if you're at something like a star party, you might be able to all look together at the same thing or share something like that. But most of the time it's by yourself in your back garden. Whereas with a meteor shower you can get people together. You can all look up at the sky and you know, race to see who can spot the most meteors or track... see if you can track where you think a meteor came from and things like that. So I think it's if people at home are interested in getting to watch meteor showers a bit more, we have a guide on how to do that over on our website www.skyatnightmagazine.com and I will put a link to that in the show notes so you can have a look. And make sure that you're making the most of the meteor showers throughout the year.

Paul Exactly. Okay. So let's have a look at the sky at the moment, then still. So on the fourth. And you could say onwards, we still have quite a parade of planets. 2022 was a pretty good year for a parade of planets. And it actually continues into 2023 because we've got Venus deep in the evening twilight. Now, at the end of December, the was Mercury. But Mercury's drop back now, unfortunately, will move into the morning sky during January. It won't be very well placed, I have to say. But we got Venus in the evening twilight, and then there's Saturn. Then as you move up the ecliptic, you have Neptune, Jupiter, Uranus and Mars as well. So all of them are now visible in the evening sky. So you don't have to stay up late to observe all these. You can actually watch all of them in the evening sort of thing before you go to bed. So you've got quite a parade there. So I think it's worth having a look at that. And we mentioned Venus. Well, Venus has a really great 2023. It's in the evening sky and actually stays there until right through to about mid-July when it'll start to drop down into the evening twilight sort of thing. And of course, July, we're talking about light summer skies, aren't we, sort of thing. So, you know, Venus is a bright planet. That's the real advantage isn't it? It's the brightest of the planets, only surpassed really by Jupiter normally and then, of course, Mars when it's at opposition. So this is a good year for Venus. Now it does pass through inferior conjunction on 13 August, but then quickly moves into morning sky for the rest of the year. So if you like getting up early, you have to walk the dog. Then that's well worth doing it. Now, Venus does have some good close encounters Ezzy as well. It encounters Saturn later this month. So we'll deal with that in a couple of weeks time. But January 21st, 22nd, Neptune in February, February 15th. Jupiter the end of February into early March. That will be a good one. That will be a really good one to look forward to. The Pleiades, the star cluster on April 10 into the 11th. And we have a daylight occultation of Venus by the Moon on November 9th. So, Venus, this is a really good year. I mean, we've just had the Year of Mars, really, haven't we, with 2022, the opposition of Mars. I think 2023 is the year of Venus, as far as I'm concerned. So I'm really looking forward to that because there's some great events. As long as we get clear skies for a few, I'd love the daylight occultation with the Moon. I know it's November time, but wow, I've seen a daylight occultation. It was quite something because Venus is bright enough to be seen in daylight. I've seen it in daylight. You have to do it around about, well, a few hours before midday when Venus is at its highest. But I've actually seen it in daylight, and that's quite something to see a little dot in the blue sky. It sounds silly, but it sends a tingle down my spine.

Ezzy Because it's one of those things that some people do forget. But there are actually a couple of planets and the Moon you can see during the day. So Venus and Jupiter, you can see both of those during the day and you can see the Moon during the day. Well, you know, if they're up in the sky and everything's in the right place, you can. So, yeah, it's there's actually quite a couple of daylight occultations happening this year I think aren't there.

Paul Yet we've got Jupiter and going to mention them next week sort of thing, but we've got Jupiter as well to look forward to. So we've actually got two daylight occultations to look forward to. So... the Venus one I must admit I'm excited by, because Venus is pretty bright. Now there's another thing to look out for. And these are one of these ephemeral objects that we we never know exactly how bright they're going to get. And that's this comet C 2022/ E3 ZTF. That's the Zenith Transit facility. So it could become a naked eye object towards the end of January into early February. It is circumpolar. So it's also one to look out for. So we'll deal with that in a couple of weeks as we get closer because it could potentially... I mean naked eyes on odd things. Even if it just becomes technically naked eye, the vast majority of us will probably still need binoculars, but even so would be nice to have a decent comet and photographers will be able to get some hopefully some great pictures of that. I've mentioned that Mercury has a poor morning showing this month, but in actual fact it will be really good as a good evening illongation... elongation, I should say, in early to late April. So that's a good time to get Mercury. And then we've got a daylight occultation of Jupiter. Yay! So that's May 17. So we've got that. You can use as a dry run in over Venus, because Jupiter is harder, because it's a bigger disc. And of course, it is because it is a disc and not as bright as Venus, you know, it is a bit harder to see, but you can see the belt. I've seen the belt sort of thing in daylight in a magnified view. So they are May 17th look for that. However, there is a there's a caveat. Whereas Venus, we should all see it from any part of the UK. When it comes to Jupiter, it'll be mainly for Scotland. However, hey, I've got a great time for a holiday, so I think I love the Scottish Highlands of thing. So they are. There's plenty to look forward to. We've got lots more, so next week, we'll have a look at a few events and we'll have a look at some more special events coming up in 2023, if that's alright with you.

Ezzy It does sound like we've got a lot of really exciting things to look forward to throughout the year in terms of astronomy. But for this week specifically, we've got the Quadrantids meteor shower that's on 3 January. Probably going to want to stay up, stay up late, get up early, around about 5:00 or 6:00AM after the Moon is set to to make the most of those. And then on 4 January, we have Venus is going to be visible in the evening twilight, along with all of the outer major planets. So that's also another one to watch out for. And also there will be the comet C/2022 E3 ZTF, very catchy name there, that will be visible throughout not just this week but going into next week as well. So keep an eye out for that one and see how that's getting on. To find out more details about that comet as well. We'll be keeping tabs on it over on our website, www.skyatnightmagazine.com. Again, we'll have a link to those in the show notes. So that's it for us this week. And thank you very much, Paul, for telling us all about what we can hope to see.

Paul A pleasure.

Ezzy If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month. Be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine where we have a 16 page pull out Sky Guide with a full overview of everything worth looking out for. Whether you like to look at the Moon, the planets, or the deep-sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither, our sky guide has got you covered with the detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky. From all of us here at BBC Sky and Night Magazine. Goodbye.

Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of Star Diary, our podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at www.skyatnightmagazine.com or head to aCast, iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.