All-sky astronomical map
Here is a map of the night sky for January 2020, showing constellations you can see from mid-northern latitudes such as London or New York in mid-month at 10pm local time. The chart is interactive, so you can click on the settings, to the top left of the chart, to change date and time, or your latitude, to suit your own astronomical set-up. For details of what you can see in the night sky, including the planets, and the Moon, click here.
The stars in January and February
In late evening in early January and early evening in late February, the winter constellations dominate the night sky. Due south you will see the very recognisable figure of Orion, the Hunter, with three stars marking his belt, and his arms raised, as if holding a club and shield. Look at a string of fainter stars running down from the belt, with a pair of binoculars, to see an obvious misty patch. This is the famous Orion Nebula, Messier 42, and it is a fine object to study with a small telescope.
To Orion’s upper right, you will find Taurus, the Bull, poised to challenge Orion. The constellation of Taurus is home to two easy-to-see clusters of stars. One is the Hyades, a V-shape which marks the head of the Bull, and where you will find the brightest star, Aldebaran, though it is actually between us and the cluster, and unrelated to it. Nearby, spot the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, which is a compact grouping of young stars. A telescope or binoculars will reveal many more than seven in this cluster, which is also labelled Messier 45.
Overhead, you will find Auriga, the Charioteer, and on either side, Gemini, the Twins, and Perseus. Return to Orion’s belt and follow it down to its lower left to find Sirius, the apparent brightest star in the night sky, in the constellation of Canis Major, the Big Dog. Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is rising high in the northeast, and if you follow the curve of its tail, you will find another bright star low in the east. This is Arcturus, in the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman.
Note: The sky will appear much the same from other cities at similar latitudes, such as New York, Paris and Berlin, at around 10pm local time. The sky appears the same at the start of the month an hour later and at the end of the month an hour earlier. We use Virtual Sky, a new, customizable, browser-based planetarium, courtesy of Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Click on the date or location to the top left of the chart to view the sky at a different time or from another longitude and latitude.