Every month this year there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above. Click on links to see photographs of the event.
In pre dawn skies this October the brightest planets will come close together to each other, with the Moon joining in the mix. Venus (-4.5 mag.), Mars (1.8 mag.) and Jupiter (-1.8 mag.) are strung out in a line at the start of the month. The 1.3 magnitude star Regulus will also be part of this configuration, standing between Venus and Mars from October 1st to October 6th.
Venus is higher at the start of the month reaching Greatest Western Elongation on October 26th. Before then a thin gibbous Moon is 3 degrees is above Venus with the star Regulus left of Venus forming a triangle of a star, a planet and a moon on October 8th.
The Moon is part of another triangle with Mars and Jupiter on October 9. Trace the path of the Moon to the horizon and you may see the planet Mercury low on the eastern horizon as a 0.3 magnitude star. On October 11 the Moon will be 1.2 degrees lower right of Mercury, a good chance to make a positively identify the planet Mercury. In four days Mercury will be Greatest Western Elongation from the Sun, the highest it will reach away from the Sun.
You can find the thin crescent Moon at sunset on October 15 some 8 degrees right of 0.6 magnitude Saturn. Look early as they are low on the horizon and set early.
Back to the morning parade, Jupiter climbs higher each night as Mars descends to the eastern horizon. Watch these two planets as Mars glides past Jupiter from October 15th – 20th They will be separated by 23 minutes of arc on October 17th. That’s less that the width of the Moon. Keep an eye on Venus on those mornings as it nears 1 degrees left of Jupiter on (Oct 26#2) October 25th (Oct 26 #1), Mars completes the triangle at a little over 3 degrees (Oct 27 #2) below Venus (Oct 27 #1) and Jupiter. Oct 29 #1, Oct 29 #2.
The Moon will interfere with the Orionid meteor shower in the early evening hours on October 21st; the Moon setting around midnight. Watch for Orionids meteors while out watching the parade of planets in the morning sky.
The morning parade of planets and Moon conjunctions continues for another two weeks. Starting with Venus passing close to the right of Mars from November 1st – 3rd They are closest to each other on November 3rd, a little less than 45 minutes of arc between them. Our Moon joins in the parade, pass a little less than 4 degrees right of the -1.9 magnitude planet Jupiter on November 6th.
The next morning, November 7th, the crescent Moon is 2 degrees right of Venus and 3 degrees below Mars, and tight triangle in the sky.(Nov 8) With binoculars you might be able to see the 4th magnitude star Beta Virginis, Zavijava, between the Moon and Mars.
For the rest of the month Jupiter, Mars and Venus continue to separate from each other, stringing out in a near straight line on the ecliptic plane.
Once more the Moon will pass by Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the morning sky. Beginning of December 1st the Moon is 4 degrees lower left of -2.0 magnitude Jupiter in the southern skies at sunrise. On December 5th the Moon is 6 degrees right of Mars, the next morning December 6th it is between Mars (1.5 mag) and Venus (-4.2 mag), closer to Mars than Venus.
A daylight event that is worth a mention will occur on Monday afternoon Dec 7th at 12:38 p.m. At that time the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus. The illuminated side of the crescent Moon, 13% illumination, will occult the planet Venus (-4.2 mag., 70% illuminated). Search for the Moon in the WSW sky some 30 to 20 degrees above the horizon before the start of the event. Factors against viewing this event: it’s December, it may be cold, they are low on the horizon, and it’s daylight. Binoculars and a telescope are required to view this event.
Look for planets Venus and Saturn in the chill morning skies the first week of the month on Jan 3. Venus is higher in the sky and shining brightly at -4.0 magniture. and 6 degrees from Saturn in lower left at 0.5 magnitude. The Moon is much higher from the horizon. In the course of five days the Moon will close in on Venus, closest for us to see on Jan 6.
Notice that Venus has also moved closer to Saturn now only 3 degrees away from the Ringed planet. Tomorrow morning Jan 7, the crescent Moon will have past by both Venus and Saturn and lower to the horizon. Venus is upper right of Saturn by less than a degree on Jan 8. They will be much closer on Jan 9 and Venus will now be lower that Saturn having pass by earlier in the day.
Venus will continue to descend toward the Sun and Saturn climb up higher into the sky each passing day.
The five naked eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all be seen in the morning sky this month after Jan 22. Most difficult to spot will be Mercury,low on the horizon before sunrise. (Not seen is Pluto, but it is around 1 degree from Mercury). December 2004 was the last time these planets could all be seen together in the sky. This year they span over 115 degrees in the sky from Mercury to Jupiter, a much wider span than the one in the year 2004.
Over in morning western sky the Moon will pass by -2.4 magnitude Jupiter on the 27th, the Moon is lower right
by 7 degrees, then on the 28th it wll be 6 degrees left of Jupiter.
The cold early morning sky is not very hospital around these parts this time of year. Two events with the Moon and planets will
happen this month. Looking south in morning sky on Feb 1st will find the Moon is 2 degrees upper left of Mars.
In the evening sky planet will find planet Venus closing in on the other inner planet Mercury. Closest on Feb 6th when Mercury reach it’s Mercury Greatest Western Elongation. Use Venus to locate Mercury to the lower left of Venus. They will both sink into the glare of the Sun by mid month.
Back to the morning sky, looking east at sunset on Feb 23th, the near Full Moon is rising with -2,5 magnitude Jupiter it’s upper left.
Hoping for a early Spring weather, you might catch the thin crescent Moon in the morning eastern horizon before sunrise with Venus 2.5 degrees to the right of the Moon. This could be a nice view of the two.
Jupiter, now 13 day past opposition, can be found in the eastern horizon after sunset. On the evening of March 21st the Moon, 2 days before Full Moon, can be found a little less than 3 degrees to the right of Jupiter.
If you missed last month’s pairing of the Moon and Jupiter, there will be plenty more to catch this year.
Face east on the evening of April 17th to find Jupiter less than 3 degrees left of the waning gibbous Moon.
This month will be the best of the year to find planet Mercury after the sun sets. Greatest Eastern Elongation will occur on the evening of April 17th, 0.0 magnitude Mercury is some 18 degrees above the horizon at sunset. It should be the brightest object in that part of the sky. Binoculars would be helpful in locating Mercury. Our Moon will not be around this time to help in the location of Mercury. See it early before the beginning of May rolls around.
Looking to the southeast horizon around 1:00 am on Apr 25th a near full Moon is above Mars. The bright star Antares,(color rival of Mars) is 5 degrees below Mars. Saturn is left some 7 degrees of Mars. Mars will be at opposition to the Earth next month.
NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITH A TELESCOPE OR THE EYE. ONLY AN APPROVED SOLAR FILTER PLACE IN FRONT OF THE TELESCOPE OBJECTIVE LENS OR MIRROR, BEFORE LIGHT ENTERS THE TELESCOPE, SHOULD BE USED WITH A TELESCOPE.
On Monday morning May 9th the inner planet Mercury will pass between the Earth and the Sun. Mercury will transit across the surface of the Sun from our view from Earth. A properly filter telescope to block out 99.99% of the Sun’s brightness and other harmful wavelengths of light, is need to view Mercury against the Sun’s disk. Mercury is too small to be seen “Solar Eclipse” glasses. Hopefully print and Internet news outlets will carry news of the event and more importantly warning about viewing te Sun with telescopes.
Start of Transit 7:11 am
Mid transit 10:57 am Sun altitude in the sky is 56 degrees
End of Transit 2:42 pm
Mars is on it way to opposition to the earth this month. In a telescope view, with Mars south pole at the top, the north pole will be tilted Earthward. Opposition date is May 22nd, date of closest approach to the Earth is May 30th At which time the planet will be 18.61 arc seconds in size, that 3.41 arc second larger than the 2013 opposition. The Northern hemisphere of Mar will transition from Spring to Summer. Mars will be easy to find at the planet brightness will reach -2.0 magnitude. Mars will be low on the souther horizon, located it in the southern constellation of Scorpius and near bright red-orange star Antares
On June 3rd Saturn is at Opposition.
The Greatest Western Elongation of Mercury on June 5th is not very favorable fo finding the planet close to horizon at sunrise.
The crescent Moon will be a good guide to locating Mercury on the morning of June 3rd. Look less than 2 degrees above the Moon to spot the 0.7 magnitude planet. The Sun is not far from rising so look low on the horizon right of sunrise point.
The three outer solar system planets dominate the evening sky in June. Jupiter, past the meridian is high is the southwest sky. Still getting most of the attention is Mars, which is still well placed for viewing with a telescope after opposition last month. Following Mars is Saturn in the southeast sky, occupying the place in the sky where Mars travel back in April of this year.