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January Constellations

December Constellations | Constellations Menu | February Constellations

The six January constellations include such notable groups as Orion, the hunter, and Taurus, the bull. Hidden among these stellar groupings can be found the famous Great Nebula of Orion, one of the brightest nebulae in the sky. Orion is also the home of the famous Horsehead Nebula, a dark region of dust in the shape of a horse's head set against a beautiful pink reflection nebula. Also visible are the Pleiades, also known as the seven sisters. The Pleiades is a small cluster of young stars still nestled in parts of the gas nebula that formed them. Viewers in southern latitudes can see the Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular galaxy located very close to our own Milky Way.

Caelum | Dorado | Mensa | Orion | Reticulum | Taurus

  Caelum The Sculptor's Chisel  

Pronunciation:  (SEE-lum) 
Abbreviation:  Cae   Genitive: Caeli
Right Ascension:  4.72 hours   Declination:  -39.2 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
125
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, January 15

Caelum is visible in northern latitudes to 63 degrees north and from southern latitudes to 43 degrees south from November through January. This constellation resembles a burin, which is an engravers tool similar to a chisel. It is one of 15 constellations named by Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. Caelum occupies an area of mostly open space between the constellations between Columba and Eridanus and is composed mainly of faint stars. It can be difficult to locate in all but the darkest of skies.

Points of Interest in Caelum
Diagram of the constellation Caelum
None

This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars.


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  Dorado The Swordfish  

Pronunciation:  (doh-RAH-doh) 
Abbreviation:  Dor   Genitive:  Doradus
Right Ascension:  5.23 hours   Declination:  -63.7 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
179
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, January 20

Dorado, the Swordfish, is visible from all latitudes south of 20 degrees north from November through January. The name more accurately translates into "goldfish". This name refers not to the well-known pet goldfish but to an iridescent sea fish known as a Pompanos. It is one of 12 southern constellations named by Johann Bayer in 1603. The only noteworthy object to be found in Dorado is the Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular galaxy located just outside our own Milky Way. It is one of the few galaxies that can be seen with the naked eye.

Points of Interest in Dorado
Diagram of the constellation Dorado Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 Large Magellanic Cloud Irregular Galaxy *

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  Mensa The Table Mountain  

Pronunciation:  (MEN-suh) 
Abbreviation:  Men   Genitive:  Mensae
Right Ascension:  5.39 hours   Declination:  -77.78 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
153
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, January 30

Mensa, the Table Mountain is completely visible in latitudes south of 5 degrees north from May through July. It can best be seen in northern latitudes in January. It takes the shape of a mountain with a flattened top. This constellation is one of 15 named by Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. It was originally named Mons Mensa, after the table mountain near de Lacaille's observatory in Cape Town. The name was later shortened by the International Astronomical Union. The constellation is composed of mostly faint stars although it does contain part of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Points of Interest in Mensa
Diagram of the constellation Mensa
None

This constellation is composed mainly of faint stars.

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  Orion The Great Hunter  

Pronunciation:  (oh-RY-un) 
Abbreviation:  Ori   Genitive:  Orionis
Right Ascension: 5.59 hours   Declination:  4.58 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
594
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, January 25

Orion, the Hunter, is visible from October through March in both hemispheres. This constellation was named after the hero of Greek mythology who was killed by Scorpius, the scorpion. The gods felt sorry for Orion, so they put him and his dogs in the sky as constellations, along with all of the animals he hunted. Scorpius was placed on the opposite side of the sky so that Orion would never be hurt by it again. Orion is never seen in the sky at the same time as Scorpius. Orion is without a doubt one of the brightest and most beautiful constellation in the winter sky. The three stars comprising Orion's belt are among the most easily recognizable formations in the night sky. The sword of Orion is the home of the famous Orion Nebula. This nebula is one of the brightest in the sky and can easily be seen with the naked eye. Another famous object, the Horsehead Nebula, is also located in Orion. This region of dark dust against a bright nebula gets its name from its shape - that of a horse head.

Points of Interest in Orion
Diagram of the constellation Orion Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M42 Reflection Nebula 4.0
2 M43 Reflection Nebula 9.0
3 M78 Reflection Nebula 8.3
4 Betelgeuse "Armpit" 0.50
5 Rigel "Foot" 0.16
6 Bellatrix "Warrioress" 1.60
7 Mintaka "West End of the Belt" 2.23
8 Alnilam "Middle of the Belt" 1.70
9 Alnitak "East End of the Belt" 2.05
10 Nair al Saif "Bright One of the Sword" 2.77
11 Saiph "Hilt of the Sword" 2.06
12 Meissa "Shining" 3.54
13 Thabit * 3.54
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  Reticulum The Net  

Pronunciation:  (ree-TIK-u-lum) 
Abbreviation:  Ret   Genitive: Reticuli
Right Ascension:  3.88 hours   Declination:  -61.15 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
114
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, December 30

Reticulum, the Net or Reticle, is completely visible in latitudes south of 23 degrees north from October through December. It is best seen in northern latitudes in January. The constellation resembles a gridwork of lines in the eyepiece of an optical instrument, also known as a reticle. It is also sometimes described as a net. Reticulum is one of the 15 southern constellations named by Abbé Nicolas Louis de Lacaille during his work at the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa. It is a dim constellation with very few points of interest.

Points of Interest in Reticulum
Diagram of the constellation Reticulum
None

This small constellation is composed of faint third to fifth magnitude stars.

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  Taurus The Bull  

Pronunciation:  (TOR-us) 
Abbreviation:  Tau   Genitive:  Tauri
Right Ascension:  4.27 hours   Declination:  18.87 degrees
Area in Square Degrees: 
797
Crosses Meridian:  9 PM, January 15

Taurus, the Bull, can be seen during the winter and the early spring in the northern hemisphere and from November to February in the southern hemisphere. It is believed to represent the story of Europa and the bull. The story tells of Europa, daughter of Agenor who was King of Phoenica. One day Europa saw a majestic white bull grazing near her father's herd. The bull was actually Zeus in disguise. After allowing Europa to climb on its back, the bull whisked her off to Crete where he made her his mistress. The V-shape of the horns in Taurus is very easy to find. Nestled within the horns can be found the Hyades, an open cluster of about 200 stars. Taurus is the home of two Messier objects. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Crab Nebula, the remnants of a massive supernova explosion. The second of the objects is the Pleiades. Also known as the Seven Sisters, it is a tight, open star cluster containing six bright stars. The Pleiades was named after the seven daughters of Atlas, the titan who holds up the sky. The seventh star, Celaeno, is too dim to bee seen by the naked eye. Celaeno is known as the lost Pleiad because in mythology, she was struck by lightning.

Points of Interest in Taurus
Diagram of the constellation Taurus Object Name Type/Translation V Mag
1 M1 Supernova Remnant *
2 M45 Open Star Cluster *
3 Aldebaran "Follower of the Pleiades" 0.9
4 Alnath "The Butting Horn" 1.6
5 Hyadum I * 3.7
6 Hyadum II * 3.8
7 Ain "Second Eye of the Bull" 3.5
8 Alcyone * 2.9
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