January Highlights

I’ve picked four (well, really five) highlights for this month –

  1. Total Lunar Eclipse on January 20-21st for North and South America as well as the western edge of Europe. See below for an in-depth discussion on shooting this lunar eclipse.
  2. Two close approaches of Venus and the Moon –
    1. Venus and a very thin crescent Moon are just over 1° apart on the morning of January 1rd.
    2. Again, on January 31st the Moon passes close to Venus. It will be so close that it appears they nearly touch.
  3. Partial Solar Eclipse for the afternoon of the 5th for the north Pacific and the morning of the 6th for northeast Asia.
  4. Venus and the Moon are joined by Jupiter and Saturn for several days starting January 30th.

Please Note: All times are given in UTC, Coordinated Universal Time. Your local times may vary based on your location. If you’re unfamiliar with UTC, check out the excellent description at http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/universal-time. Even with that information, it can sometimes be confusing converting UTC times to your local time. Try http://www.timebie.com/std/utc.php for converting a specific UTC time to your local time.

Milky Way Core (MWC) – Best Visibility at End of Month

The Milky Way Core is not visible world-wide for much of January. The MWC is beginning to leave the Sun’s glare this month as it has passed through the constellation Sagittarius and has enters Capricorn. The Southern Hemisphere will have an earlier and higher view of the MWC as the Core is located nearly 30° south of the celestial equator.

Milky Way Core Visibility

45 N Latitude

January 1 – 19Lost in the glare of the sun. The MWC never rises above the horizon at this latitude during nighttime. 
January 20 – 27The MWC core starts to rise during morning twilight around the 20th. However, a near full moon interferes.
January 28 – 31The MWC core starts to rise during astronomical night. A waning Moon will cause less interference and may add interest in the last few days of the month as it approaches new moon. The MWC should be above the horizon for almost 20 minutes by January 31st.

35 S Latitude

January 1 – 7Lost in the glare of the sun.
January 8 – 19The MWC core has returned and there is no interference from the Moon. It’s only visible for a handful of minutes on the 8th but is up for about an hour by the 19th.  
January 20 – 27A Near full moon interferes.
January 28 – 31A waning Moon will cause less interference and may add interest in the last few days as it approaches new moon. The MWC will be well above the horizon by the start of twilight on the morning of January 31st, visible for nearly 2 hours.

Astronomical Nighttime by Latitude

The long hours of true nighttime have returned to all northern latitudes. Summer is has arrived Southern Hemisphere bringing long hours of daylight.

Total Hours of Astronomical Nighttime

LatitudeFirst Day of the Month
Total Hours:Minutes
15th Day of the Month
Total Hours:Minutes
Last Day of the Month
Total Hours:Minutes
65° N12:5312:1811:18
60° N12:2912:0111:13
55° N12:0911:4611:07
50° N11:5211:3311:00
45° N11:3611:2110:54
40° N11:2211:0910:47
35° N11:0810:5710:39
20° N10:2610:2110:13
0° N9:229:259:28
20° S7:538:038:21
35° S5:596:216:55
50° SNo True Nighttime1:473:46


January starts with a waning crescent moon, just past Last Quarter and rising well after midnight. The new moon is on the 6th, so the first week and a half of the month will have moonless evenings. By the 11th, a thin crescent moon appears in the evening sky. At month’s end, the moon is about 25 days old and is just past last quarter.

But the highlight for the Moon this month is a…

Total Lunar Eclipse – January 20th – 21st

A total lunar eclipse will happen on the night of January 20th to 21st. It will be visible to all parts of North and South America as well as the western edge of Europe. Partial phases can be seen from the rest of Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Northern Japan, and the Middle East. The total duration of this eclipse is 5 hours, 12 minutes, with totality lasting 62 minutes. It’s the first Total Lunar Eclipse visible in its entirety from the Western Hemisphere since 2015.  

This eclipse is expected to be an exceptional one for several reasons. Firstly, the Moon will be well within the umbra of the Earth’s shadow. Second, for observers in northern latitudes, it will be high in the night sky. It will take a little more work to incorporate totality into a landscape photo than last January’s total lunar eclipse. Finally, for viewers in the United States, it’s the Sunday night of a 3-day weekend.

Make sure you take a child you know out and share the experience of this eclipse. I think the first lunar eclipse I saw was a total eclipse in May of 1975. I was 12 at the time and it inspired me to learn more about the night sky as well as how to photograph it. Heck, even take an adult out you know!

Viewing the Eclipse

For observers in the contiguous USA and Canada, it will start after sunset with totality happening before midnight. Be prepared for a late night on the eastern margin of the continent if you want to see the eclipse in its entirety, as it ends well after midnight. Those on the west coast will have an early evening with the eclipse wrapping it up shortly before midnight. And dress warmly! For interactive maps, timetables, and charts, see https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2019-january-21

With the Moon so high in the sky at the start of the eclipse, it can be hard to see the Earth’s shadow starting to move across the surface of the Moon. A trick some experienced lunar eclipse viewers use is to wear sunglasses. Yes, wear your sunglasses at night! (Apologies to those that are now having a flashback to 1984 and are now mentally hearing Corey Hart singing “Sunglasses at Night”.) Sunglasses can help with reducing visual glare from the Moon and make the encroaching shadow more easily visible. After a bit, it will be obvious where the Earth’s shadow is as it advances across the Moon.

Photographing a Total Lunar Eclipse

The initial stages of the eclipse can be photographed using standard full moon settings – try using the “Looney 11 Rule”. It’s a variant of the “Sunny 16” rule for daylight exposure. For Looney 11, set the ISO to whatever you want, say 100. Then set your lens to f/11 and finally your shutter speed to the same value you set the ISO. So, if the ISO is at 100, then the shutter speed would be 1/100 or 1/125 second, depending on your camera. You probably don’t need or want to use f/11 when photographing the full Moon, so open the lens up a stop or two and select a shutter speed that maintains the Looney 11 rule relationship.  Something like ISO 100, f/5.6, and 1/400 second would be a great starting place.

Try to keep your shutter speed high as the Moon moves a noticeable amount when magnification gets high. In addition to the Moon moving, the air between you and the Moon moves and can cause a considerable amount of distortion when using longer lenses. Try to keep shutter speeds faster than one second. It will be tough as the eclipse reaches totality, so be prepared to raise your ISO to 1600 or even 3200.

Gear to Bring

Use a remote shutter release or self-timer to minimize camera blur. If you have a mirrorless camera, use “electronic front-curtain shutter”. For a DSLR, use mirror lock-up if your camera has it. A sturdy tripod is a must. If you’re using a telephoto lens, a geared tripod head is helpful in situations like this where frequent small adjustments need to be made. A star tracker set to the lunar tracking speed will help keep you from having to readjust your tripod head.

Finally, bring extra batteries. Especially when it’s cold. Cold temps can suck the life from your batteries faster than an Energy Vampire. Some cameras, like Sony’s, can be powered off a USB connector. Some cameras can use a “dummy battery” that replaces the real battery in your camera and then plugs into an AC adaptor or a USB battery. Several types are available so see what will work with your camera.

Don’t Do the Dew

Use a dew shield or lens warmer. Especially on colder nights. A dew shield is like a lens hood that extends several inches and wraps all the way around the lens. It helps keep dew from landing on the front element of your lens. In a pinch, you can make one out of some black plastic sheeting or even card stock. You can tape it to your telephoto’s lens hood to secure it to your camera. You will not be able use a dew shield with a wide-angle lens, but for a telephoto lens it’s good insurance against loosing photos due to moisture condensing on your lens.

For wide-angle or even telephoto lenses use a lens warmer. You can make one simply by taking some chemical hand warmers, like hunter’s use, put a couple into a sock. Then wrap and tie the sock securely around the front of your lens. Or you can buy an electrical lens warmer. They typically need 12V DC or USB for power. They are easy to use and work well.

Histograms are Your Friend

Some photographers simply use a Sunny 16 exposure to start. Remember that your histogram is your friend. It will probably have just one big peak in it at the start of the eclipse and that’s going to be the Moon. Keep it in the middle-right half of your histogram to avoid under/over exposure. As the penumbra starts to move across the Moon, the histogram will flatten out somewhat, but keep any peaks you have on the middle-right half of your histogram plot. Don’t let them touch the far right edge of the histogram.

15 minutes into the Eclipse in Lightroom. ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec.

Image 1 of 1

Taken about 15 minutes into the eclipse. Other than the darkened upper left edge of the Moon, it's hard to tell that it's not just any other full Moon. Taken 15 minutes into the eclipse. The histogram shows a large peak on the right side, that's the Moon. The Moon at 1260mm, Recorded 08 October 2014. Sony a6000, 8" f/10 Meade LX-200 with 0.63 Meade Focal Reducer.

Full to Penumbra to Umbra. Strike That, Reverse it!

There are two parts of the Earth’s shadow that the Moon will pass through during this eclipse. The Moon first enters the penumbra, which is the lighter shadow. The Moon then enters the umbra, where totality occurs. It will reverse this order and reenter the penumbra, passing through it again until the eclipse ends. The umbra appears much darker compared to the penumbra. This transition is the hardest part of a total lunar eclipse to photograph. In addition, it’s impossible to predict exposures as the darkness of the umbra depends on the condition of the Earth’s atmosphere and how far the Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow.

The difference in brightness between the Moon’s surface as the umbra moves across will push the limits of your camera sensor latitude. Once more than half the Moon is covered by the umbra, the contrast range will decrease. Give enough exposure to the darker part of the Moon to preserve its color. Try not to blow out the highlights of the Moon. Remember to bump up your ISO as the eclipse progresses to totality so your shutter speeds don’t get too slow. Try to keep them shorter than one second.

Here’s some video from a few minutes into the start of the 8 October 2014 eclipse to show how much the image moves due to atmospheric turbulence. Turbulence is one reason to use fast shutter speeds. Watch on at full size for maximum effect.

Not Always a “Blood Moon”

Don’t be misled by the popular press into calling every total lunar eclipse a “blood moon”. Brighter eclipses can have a distinctly blueish tinge to the rim of the Moon. Sometimes the brighter edge can cause observers to question whether the eclipse was truly a total one. During a darker eclipse, the features of the Moon all but disappear and can be very hard to distinguish. They can have a wide range of shades.

For this eclipse, the Moon will pass to the north of the umbra center, so the northern edge of the Moon will be brighter than the rest. The lower part will be noticeably dimmer. As I mentioned above, the color and darkness of the Moon can vary from one total lunar eclipse to the next. The color can range from that of a bright coppery-red, like a shiny penny, to a brick red, then a rust-colored red, to a dark grey or brown, and finally to a nearly black Moon which is almost invisible.

My God, It’s Full of Stars

Another effect of a total eclipse is that more stars will be visible than on a regular moon-lit night. The brightness of the sky will change dramatically from start to midpoint and then back to finish. If you have a second camera, set it up for a time lapse. Point it at an interesting landscape feature. Remember to adjust the exposure/ISO as the eclipse proceeds. I’ve done this and it’s interesting to see the brightness of the land change as the stars come out. The color of the land will reflect the color of the Moon during the eclipse as well. Try incorporating the Winter Milky Way in the frame if possible. 

Learning from the Past

For the total lunar eclipse on September 27th – 28th, 2015, I used a tracked telescope at 1260 mm with exposures at f/6.3. For the start of the eclipse, I used ISO 100 at 1/160 sec and dropped it to 3 seconds and ISO 200 for totality. The Moon travelled a similar depth into the Earth’s shadow then as it will be for this eclipse. At that exposure, the brightest part of the Moon was near overexposure while the darkest part was near black. I should have bumped up the ISO to get shorter exposures for this eclipse, as the Moon was low in the sky and the atmosphere blurred the shots more than I wanted. Lesson learned – use a faster ISO to keep the shutter speeds higher.

50% Coverage by the Umbra in Lightroom. ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec.

Image 1 of 1

About 50% coverage of the umbra on the Moon. Exposure settings are the same as for the Moon as at the start of the eclipse. Notice how the umbra completely darkens the part it covers. The histogram has flattened out from the start of the eclipse. The Moon at 1260mm, Recorded 08 October 2014. Sony a6000, 8" f/10 Meade LX-200 with Meade 0.63X Focal Reducer.

For the October 8th, 2014 total lunar eclipse, with the same tracked telescope at 1260 mm and f/6.3, I started the night out with ISO 800 at 1/2000 seconds and continued with that exposure until the umbra was about 50% covering the Moon. I then slowly stepped the exposure up by decreasing the shutter speeds. All this time the brighter part of the moon (still in the penumbra) was held at the same apparent brightness in the exposures. The part in the umbra was near black – it ended up looking rather like a normal crescent moon, but the transition area was much softer than on a crescent.

Beginning of Totality in Lightroom. ISO 800, f/6.3, 1.6 sec.

Image 1 of 1

Taken at the beginning of Totality. Note how uch brighter the upper right edge of the Moon is relative to the lower left which is closer to the center of the Earth's shadow. The histogram is very flat at this point. The Moon at 1260mm, Recorded 08 October 2014. Sony a6000, 8" f/10 Meade LX-200 with Meade 0.63X Focal Reducer.

By the time 90% of the Moon was covered by the umbra, I was at 1/10th second exposures. Some color was starting to come out in the dark part of the Moon while the part still in the penumbra was overexposed. When totality started, I used 1.6 seconds, still at f/6.3 and ISO 800. This gave a nice-looking shot with the brightest part of the Moon just about overexposed and the darkest showing a deep red color. I continued to use setting around this exposure for the rest of totality. In hindsight, they are a little dark and could have used having the ISO bumped up to 1600.

Eclipse Exposure Calculator

I great site for planning eclipse photography is by Xavier Jubier, he’s an engineer with a passion for both solar and lunar eclipses. He’s got an excellent interactive exposure calculator online that’s well worth checking out. Not only does it have an exposure calculator, but it can also show the size of the moon or sun for your camera and lenses. Make sure you check out his photo galleries for lots of amazing eclipse photos.

NASA has a single page datasheet for this eclipse can be found here: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2019Jan21T.pdf

Oh, and if anyone ask why you’re wearing sunglasses while photographing the lunar eclipse, just tell them, “Don’t be afraid of the guy in shades, oh no! I wear my sunglasses at night…” Then repeat the last line and do a long fadeout. Sorry, I just had to work in a couple lyrics from that Corey Hart song.

Lunar Eclipse Timing

Penumbral Eclipse beginsJan 21 at 02:36:30 UTC
Partial Eclipse beginsJan 21 at 03:33:54 UTC
Full Eclipse beginsJan 21 at 04:41:17 UTC
Maximum EclipseJan 21 at 05:12:16 UTC
Full Eclipse endsJan 21 at 05:43:16 UTC
Partial Eclipse endsJan 21 at 06:50:39 UTC
Penumbral Eclipse endsJan 21 at 07:48:00 UTC

Lunar Phases

1/06 01:28 UTC New Moon 
1/14 06:46 UTCFirst QuarterWaxing Gibbous
1/21 05:16 UTCFull Moon 
1/27 21:10 UTCThird/Last QuarterWaning Gibbous

Lunar Trivia – American-Centric Traditional Moon Names for December

Farmer’s Almanac: 


Supposedly from “Native Americans” of the NE and Eastern USA

Wolf Moon – supposedly named after the cold and hungry wolf packs that would howl outside Indian villages. Some called it the Snow Moon, but that seems to have been used more for February.
Actual Native American NamesThe Famer’s Almanac presents a rather simplistic view of American Indian names. There is no way I can condense these traditions into the little box on this page, so I encourage you to look at Indian Moons, Days & Other Calendar Stuff by Phil Konstantin.
Anglo-SaxonÆftera Geola  – The month “after Yule,” literally after Christmas.


Partial Solar Eclipse

January 5th – 6th. Observable in parts of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, Micronesia, and East Asia. For a coverage map see: Solar eclipse of January 6, 2019.
As with all solar observing, wear proper eyewear when looking at / or  photographing the sun. Use a solar filter that meets ISO 12312-2:2015 requirements. The same filter that you used for the Great American Solar Eclipse in 2017 will work well. Don’t trust your camera to a standard photographic ND filter as they will most likely not filter out Infrared light. You risk frying your camera sensor by not having the proper filter. 

Earth at Perihelion

On January 3rd at 5:21 UTC, Earth will be at its closest point to the sun. The orbit of Earth is not quite circular, it’s an ellipse and varies about 3% over the course of the year. Even though the Sun is larger in the sky on this day than any other during the year, in practice, it’s imperceptible.


Highlights of the Month

Morning Sky – Three Planets in a Row.

After having bright planets in the evening sky for much of last year, there are three bright planets adorning the morning sky at the start of this January. 

On the first of the month, Venus, high in the morning is joined by Jupiter and Mercury. However, Mercury soon returns into the glare of the rising Sun. But Jupiter continues its long climb into the sky. The Moon passes by them as well from January 1st to 4th.

At the end of January, there are again three planets. But this time Venus and Jupiter are joined by Saturn. Jupiter is highest in the sky this time, with Venus and Saturn pointing towards the direction of the Sun. Again, a waning crescent Moon is dancing with these planets from January 29th to February 2rd.  

Venus and Moon Near Approach (Appulse)

Venus and the Moon will have an appulse (close approach) on January 1st, 22:34 UTC. They will be only 1° 13′ apart. The best news about this is the Moon will only be a couple days before new. The closest approach is best seen from East Asia. 

A second appulse of the Moon and Venus happens on 17:37 UTC on January 31st. This one is very close 0° 05’ for viewers. Viewers in Alaska, Hawaii, the western Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia are positioned best for the closest approach.

Venus and Jupiter Near Approach (Appulse)

Venus will be in appulse with Jupiter on 22nd, when they will be about 2 degrees apart. They will be closest at 22 Jan 2019 15:18 UTC.

Planetary Roundup


Mercury has already begun its move back into the Sun’s glare. As always, it’s close to the horizon. This month it will be close to Jupiter as well. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, look for them very low on the western horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise at the start of the month.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury is higher in the sky than in the north. Look for it between the position of the sun and a line formed with Venus and Jupiter about 30 minutes before sunrise.


Yet again, Venus is the “Star” of this month’s planets – the “Morning Star”, that is. It is many times brighter than any other astronomical object, other than the Sun and Moon.  It will be prominent in the morning sky all month, barely dimming. 

Venus and the Moon will have an appulse (close approach) on January 1st, 22:34 UTC. They will be only 1° 13′ apart. That’s just over two lunar diameters apart! This should look great with either a wide angle or a telephoto lens! The best news about this is the Moon will only be a couple days before new and be a thinning crescent. The closest approach is best seen from East Asia.

Venus reaches its greatest western elongation of 47° from the Sun on January 6th. It will appear to be moving closer to the Sun for the rest of the month.

A second appulse of the Moon and Venus happens at 17:37 UTC on January 31st. This one is a very, very close 0° 05’. Viewers in Alaska, Hawaii, the western Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia are best positioned for the closest approach.

A side note: It’s still possible to see Venus in the daytime sky, if one knows where to look. Try following Venus as sunrise approaches. Once the sun is up, use an object like a building to block the sun and its glare. If you’ve been following Venus and the air is clear, it’s quite likely you’ll be able to see it even though it’s daytime!


Mars starts the month well above the southern horizon during blue hour for mid-northern latitudes. It still shines brighter than most stars. At latitude 35° S, Mars is very high in the NW sky at the start of evening. It sets about the same time each day this month. 

Like last month, Mars will lose nearly half of its brightness. Look for its distinctive red color. Hurry and catch it before it gets too dim to stand out.


Jupiter continues its climbs further out of the dawn’s glare as the month continues. It is bright, but still not as bright as Venus.  Look for it to rise about 2 hours before the sun at the start of the month. 

Jupiter and Venus are in appulse on 22 Jan 2019 05:43 UTC. Venus is the brightest and more northerly of the two. They pass just over 2° from each other.


Saturn leads the Milky Way Core this month, but both are lost in the sun’s glare and the start. It’s in conjunction with the Sun on the 2nd of January. It then moves into the morning sky. By the end of January, Saturn is rising more than an hour before the sun.


Well up before sunset and reaching its highest point in the night sky around 8PM.  It’s about an hour behind Mars as it moves across the sky. Uranus is not visible with the naked eye. (That’s an old 5th grade joke…)


All through January, Neptune has already risen by sunset. It is a little to the west of Mars and thus sets shortly before Mars. Neptune is not visible with the naked eye.


Really, if you don’t think Pluto is a planet, check out the photos from the New Horizons space probe. There are dunes of windblown methane ice crystals on it! https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

It’s located about just a bit east of the sun well into the glare. If you look in this area for a second or two, you’ll certainly have a few photons that travelled from Pluto hit your retina! But it’s only Magnitude 14 so you’ll need a big scope to see it as an actual point when it’s not in the sun’s glare.

Appulse (Conjunction)

An “appulse” is when any two astronomical objects appear close to each other. Commonly the term “conjunction” is used when two objects appear close in the sky, but a conjunction has a more technical definition meaning when two objects share the same right ascension.

Note – The times given and are for the closest approach. As the Moon moves relatively quick across the sky, visibility of the closet approach depends highly on your location.

Date – UTCObjectsDeg 



Moon AgeMoon PhaseComments 


Rating, 5=Best, 0=Worst

01 Jan 2019 22:34Moon + Venus1° 13′25 daysWaning Crescent5 out of 5
03 Jan 2019 08:49Moon + Jupiter3° 04′27 daysNearly New1 out of 5
12 Jan 2019 23:52Moon + Mars4° 58’6 daysFirst Quarter1 out of 5
22 Jan 2019 15:18Venus + Jupiter2° 24′NANA4 out of 5 


Best Seen in Europe

31 Jan 2019 00:48Moon + Jupiter2° 43′24 daysWaning Crescent5 out of 5 


Venus nearby as well.

31 Jan 2019 17:37Moon + Venus0° 05’25 daysWaning Crescent5 out of 5 


As good as it gets!

Jupiter nearby as well.

Meteor Showers

Showers this Month

The Quadrantids are the only active shower this month. With a visible hourly rate predicted to be 25 and no interference from the Moon, the Quadrantids are expected to be good. This is the last recognized shower until the Lyrids in April. The Quadrantids and the Eta Aquariids in early May are expected to be the best showers of 2019. Make sure you get out and catch them!

Quadrantid – Peak January 3rd – 4th

January brings the Quadrantid meteor shower, one of the stronger showers of the year. The Quadrantids are active from January 1st to January 10th, with the peak expected to occur on the night of January 3th to the morning of the 4th. Since the Moon will be almost new, it will not interfere with viewing this shower.

The Quadrantids have a relatively high Zenith Hourly Rate of 80-120, but since the radiant for this shower will be low in the sky, expect about 25 per hour. The peak is predicted to be at 2:00 UTC on January 4th.  This works well for viewers in Europe and eastern North America.

Look towards the northeast, the radiant will be in the constellation Draco, below the handle of the Big Dipper. As with all meteor showers, look about 30° to 40° from the radiant.


Best Seen From: Northern Hemisphere

Maximum Hourly Rate = 25

Meteor Velocity = Swift – 26 miles/sec, 42 km/sec

Parent Body Associated with Shower = 2003 EH1 (an asteroid that is perhaps a dead comet).

Aurora Outlook

For up to the minute aurora forecasts, check out the information at http://auroraforecast.gi.alaska.edu/ For an animated forecast maps for both northern and southern hemisphere, try https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast

NOAA publishes a 27-day Outlook of Geomagnetic Indices While these are only predictions, they are based on the They are updated on every Monday at 1500 UTC and list the highest daily K values.

As of the time of writing (December 31st), it is predicting no events at Kp 6 or higher up to December 26. A couple Kp 4 days are predicted for January 4th and 16th and a Kp 5 on the 24th. It’s predicting Kp 2 or 3 for most of the rest of the month.  

As we approach the end of Solar Cycle 24, the outlook for solar activity which causes the aurora is expected to increase in the next several years. Despite the current Solar Cycle being very low in activity, aurora activity has been occasionally spectacular. Look for auroras to increase in the next few years. There was even a Kp5 (auroras are measured on a scale of 0 to 9) at the end of August, so even though we’re in a period of very low overall activity, there can still be occasionally high activity.

Northern HemisphereGood – night skies are dark enough for great viewing.
Southern HemisphereViewing outlook poor.

Noctilucent Clouds

“Night clouds” are a tenuous, cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere. They are made of ice crystals and are only visible in a deep twilight. Noctilucent clouds are typically visible at higher latitudes in each hemisphere but can occasionally be seen at lower latitudes when the sun is well below the horizon.    

Northern Hemisphere from 50° to 70°Not likely to be visible.
Southern Hemisphere from 50° to 70°Opportunities are increasing as the sun’s path moves south. Look in the direction of where the sun is as it moves below the southern horizon.

ISS and Satellites

Go to https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ and sign up for flyover alerts. Usually show up about 12 hours before the flyover. They tell the time, compass directions, angular elevation, and length of time of the flyover. Check for your location as the time of the flyover greatly affects the visibility of the ISS.

ISS Flyovers

Northern HemisphereThe sun is starting to move north and longer flyover times are returning over the upcoming moths.
Southern HemisphereOpportunities to see longer flyovers are increasing as the summer months are approaching.

ISS Transits of the Sun or Moon

There is a possibility that the ISS will pass directly between any location on Earth and the Moon or the Sun. These transits are highly dependent on where the observer is located. And higher latitudes decrease the chances of these transits. The best way to find if a transit will happen nearby, go to https://transit-finder.com/

Since the ISS is moving at about 17,000 mph (27,000 km/hr.), transits happen quickly! Lasting from about 5 seconds to less than one second. Since these transits happen so quickly, you need to plan! Instead of trying to see the transit and then triggering your shutter by hand, have your camera set up and then either shoot HD or 4K video or have the camera shoot at its fastest frame rate. You’ll get more frames shooting video, especially if you have a camera that can shoot at 120 fps.

For Solar Transits, make sure you use a solar filter that meets ISO 12312-2:2015 Requirements. The same filter that you got for the Great American Solar Eclipse last year will work well. Don’t trust your camera to a standard photographic ND filter as they will most likely not filter out Infrared light. You will risk frying your camera sensor by not having the proper filter.  


Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet Wirtanen has proved better than many expected, including myself! Wirtanen’s orbit keeps it relatively close to the Sun for a while still. But the Earth is quickly moving away from the comet as we course around the Sun. So, Wirtanen’s apparent size is rapidly decreasing. 

On New Year’s Day from mid-northern latitudes, Wirtanen has moved up past Capella which is high in the eastern evening sky. Find Capella about midway between Orion and Polaris, the North Star. The Moon will rise around 3AM so look before then.

Wirtanen will reach its highest elevation in the sky about January 9th. It will then be in the north-northwest sky at this point and will be passing between Capella and the cup of the Big Dipper. By Month’s end it should be near the cup.

The comet will be dimming as the month goes and probably not visible to the naked eye past the first of January, even in the darkest of locations. It is expected to be 5th magnitude in brightness on the 1st but reaching 7th magnitude by January 17th. It should still show in a typical astro landscape star exposure during the first couple weeks of the month.

By mid-January, the waxing Moon will interfere.

More position and map info can be found here. It’s in Dutch, but the maps should still be helpful.

To photograph it, you’ll want a location that has low light pollution. Even then, it will be hard if not impossible to see visually since the coma will be so diffuse and have such a large angular size. Also, remember that humans have a blind spot so look just a little to the side of where the comet is predicted and use averted vision to try and see it. Binoculars can help seeing it visually.  

International Dark Sky Association

Consider Supporting the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to help preserve our night skies. You can visit their website at http://darksky.org/about/ The IDA maintains a list of some of the world’s best dark sky locations. They are also dedicated to educating people about light pollution and how to reduce it.

About Astro-Landscape Photographer Notes

The following information is designed with the Astro-Landscape Photographer in mind. I searched the web for information about astronomical objects that were presented in a condensed form that a landscape photographer could use to plan interesting photographs. I couldn’t find any I liked, so I made this list for myself. After putting all this together, I figured I’d put it on the web for others to use so I expanded the scope to include information for a world-wide audience. 

Recent Notes

If you enjoyed this Astro-Landscape Photography Notes January 2019, you can read the last two Astro-Landscape Photographer Notes here:

December 2018

November 2018


If you find any info that needs clarification or correction for this Astro-Landscape Note, please email me at kirk@keyesphoto.com.















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