Earth was at its closest point to the Sun (91,400,939 miles), which is called perihelion, in its orbit on Sunday, January 4th. We are actually closest to the Sun in the winter (for the northern hemisphere) and farthest from the Sun during the summer in July, called aphelion, on July 3rd this year, when Earth will be 94,505,048 miles from the Sun.
If you noticed the full Moon last Saturday night, January 10th looked as impressive as the one in December, you were correct. Just as the December full Moon was the largest and brightest of 2008, the January full Moon was the largest and brightest of 2009, and for the same reason – the Moon was full while it was at perigee, the closest point in its orbit to the Earth.
The bright standout in the evening sky right now after sunset is Venus. This Thursday, January 14th, Venus reaches is greatest angular distance East of the Sun, 47 degrees. This means that it will be as high in the sky after sunset as it can get, so the next week or so will be a great time to admire the brilliant “evening star” (weather permitting, of course.)
Manager of Planetarium & Senior Programs