What the Planets are doing this month


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec


January 2019

   Mercury. The inner planet rises in the early morning twilight one hour before the Sun on the first day of January but sets closer to the Sun as the month progresses heading toward superior conjunction with the Sun on the 30th.

Venus. The "Morning Star" sees the first of the new year in Libra, crossing into Scorpius on the 10th and into Ophiuchus on the 15th of the Month. For a couple of days either side of the 23rd Venus and Jupiter will be less then three degrees apart. A thin waning crescent Moon sits two degrees to the north of Venus on the 2nd.

   Mars. The red planet sets four hours later than the Sun at the beginning of the new year. The start of January finds it in Pisces, five degrees to the east of the faint circlet of stars marking the head of one of the fish. At magnitude 0.5 and with its ruddy glow it stands out among the faint stars of Pisces. The crescent waxing Moon joins Mars on the 12th and 13th of the month.

  Jupiter. In the morning sky and rising two hours before the Sun at the beginning of the month, the giant planet spends the entire month in Ophiuchus – The Serpent Bearer. By the end of the month Jupiter will rise four hours before the Sun encountering the waning crescent Moon on the last day of the month when the two will be just over three degrees apart.
  Saturn. Wait to the end of the month before trying to observe Saturn when it will be rising two hours before the Sun.

Moon Phase for January 2019:

   6th   14th  21st  28th

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February 2019 

   Mercury. The inner planet returns to the evening twilight sky this month reaching its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 27th. However because of the sharp angle of the ecliptic to the western horizon Mercury will set only forty minutes later than the Sun and hard to spot in the western evening twilight. Better to wait until next month when Mercury returns to the early morning sky and in a more favourable position for observation.

Venus. The waning crescent Moon and Venus begin February in Sagittarius within two degrees of each other on the first day of the month. Venus remains in the realm of the Archer for the whole month of February having a close encounter with Saturn on the 18th and 19th when the pair will be just over one degree apart. Rising three hours before the Sun mid-month, the "Morning Star" stands out among the vast star fields and nebulosity of this area of the heavens. If you are feeling adventurous, The magnitude 14.3 dwarf planet Pluto is ninety arcminutes to the south on the 23rd of the month.

   Mars. The red planet begins the month in Pisces passing into Aries on the 13th and encountering Uranus as it does so when the two planets are within one degree of each other. Check out the contrasting colours of these two bodies. Mars sets three hours later than the Sun for most of the month and the waxing crescent Moon will be in close proximity to Mars on the 10th and 11th of February.

  Jupiter. The giant planet rises over five hours before the Sun as February begins but by the end of the month it will be rising just before midnight, a good six hours before the Sun. It spends the entire month in Ophiuchus where it encounters the waning crescent Moon on the first and last day of the month.
  Saturn. Low in the eastern morning twilight, the ringed planet rises two hours before the Sun at the beginning of February but by the end of the month will breast the eastern horizon a full four hours before the Sun. The 18th and 19th of the month sees Saturn very close to Venus and the contrasting colours of the pair should be apparent with Venus a brilliant white and Saturn with its subtle yellow hue. The waning crescent Moon joins Saturn on the second day of the month.

Moon Phase for February 2019:

5th   13th   20th  26th   

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March 2019

   Mercury. The elusive inner planet is low in the western twilight at the beginning of March and very difficult to observe as it sets only forty minutes later than the Sun. It will be at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 15th of the month on its way to the early morning twilight. By month’s end it will be rising ninety minutes before the Sun and just over one degree from the outer planet Neptune.
 
Venus. The "morning star" begins March in the early morning sky in Sagittarius, rising three hours before the Sun. It will move into Capricornus on the 3rd and on this day be situated one degree to the north of the Moon. It will cross into Aquarius on the 25th heading for a rendezvous with Neptune early next month.

   Mars. High in the western evening sky at sundown Mars begins the month in Aries, setting three hours later than the Sun. It travels into Taurus on the 24th and for the next few nights slowly glides past the famous Pleiades star cluster. The waxing crescent Moon joins the red planet on March the 11th.

  Jupiter. The giant planet rises just before midnight as March begins but by the end of the month will cross the eastern horizon around 10:00pm. It spends the entire month in Ophiuchus where in encounters a waning gibbous Moon on the 27th.
  Saturn. Still lazing about in Sagittarius, Saturn can be readily identified by its subtle yellow glow. Because of its slow orbit around the Sun it only managed a two degree eastern motion against the background stars for the entire month of March. On the 2nd of the month a thin waning crescent Moon lies one degree to the east of the ringed planet.

Moon Phase for March 2019:

   7th  14th   21st 28th 

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April 2019

   Mercury. Venus. Early morning risers will be rewarded this month with great opportunities to observe Mercury as it shares the early morning twilight with the much brighter Venus. On the 3rd the outer planet Neptune will be separated from Mercury by less than half a degree with the pair visible in the same telescopic field. On this morning the thin crescent of a waning Moon resides three degrees to the south of this pair. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 12th. On he 15th the inner planet crosses from Aquarius into Pisces closely followed by Venus two mornings later when the two planets will be only four degrees apart. The constellation Cetus plays host to Mercury from the 23rd to the 26th of the month and to Venus from the 27th to the 29th of the month. The pair finish the month back in Pisces.

   Mars. Low in the western evening twilight at the beginning of April, Mars hovers close to the Pleiades star cluster for the first few days of the month where on the 9th it is joined by the four day old waxing crescent Moon. It continues its eastward journey against the background stars of Taurus encountering the fourth magnitude pair of Kappa Tauri stars on the 13th and the sixth magnitude open star cluster NGC 1746 on April 27th.

  Jupiter.  The king of the planets rises just before 10:00pm at the beginning of April and, rising four minutes earlier each evening, by the end of the month rises at 8:00pm. Situated among the magnificent starfields of Ophiuchus and Sagittarius it outshines all  comers in this part of the sky except the Moon which joins it on the 24th. Two of the better known Messier objects, M20 and M8 are just seven degrees to the east of Jupiter.

  Saturn. The ringed planet enters the eastern sky just before midnight as April begins, seven degrees to the east of the teapot asterism of Sagittarius. By the end of the month it will rise around 10:00pm and be the brightest object in Sagittarius and distinguished by its subtle yellow tinge. It will be occulted by the waning crescent Moon on the 25th but from the location Sydney the disappearance will not be visible, however the reappearance will be visible at 11:26pm low in the eastern sky.

Moon Phase for April 2019:

  5th   13th   19th  27th

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May 2019

   Mercury. In superior conjunction with the Sun on the 21st, Mercury is only visible in the morning sky until around the 9th of the month when it will be starting to get lost in the glare of the Sun. On the 9th it will be in conjunction with Uranus and the pair will be situated only eighty arcminutes apart. On the last day of the month Mercury will be in the western evening twilight and setting forty five minutes later than the Sun. A waning crescent Moon will be four degrees to the west of Mercury on the 3rd of May.

Venus. Still fulfilling its roll as the "Morning Star", the brilliant Venus outshines all comers except the waning crescent Moon which it encounters on the 2nd and 3rd of the month. It begins the month in the early morning sky in Pisces, moving into Aries on May 18th where the next morning is in conjunction with Uranus with one degree separating the pair.

   Mars. The red planet will be low in the western evening sky this month where it is joined by a three day old waxing crescent Moon on the 8th of the month while it is locked between the horns of Taurus the bull. On the 17th it crosses into Gemini where it passes close to the open cluster NGC 2158 on the 18th and another open cluster M35 on the 19th. The last day of May finds Mars one degree from third magnitude Mebsuta, epsilon Geminorum.

  Jupiter. The spotty one rises at 8:00pm at the start of May in the constellation of Ophiuchus where it will spend the entire month. By the end of the month however it will rise around 6:00pm and in a great position for observation for most of the night. A waning gibbous moon joins Jupiter on the evening of the 20th of the month.

  Saturn. Still in Sagittarius and identifiable by it subtle yellow tinge, Saturn is always worth observing with its magnificent ring system. It will rise at 10:00pm at the beginning of the month and by the end of May will rise above the eastern horizon around 8:00pm. There will be a daytime occultation of Saturn by the Moon at 8:00am on Thursday May 23rd.

Moon Phase for May 2019:

5th  12th   19th   27th 

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June 2019


   Mercury:    The inner planet begins June in Taurus low in the western evening twilight setting forty minutes later than the Sun. It moves into Gemini on the 5th where on the 18th and 19th it has a close encounter with Mars, the pair being separated by less than half a degree and it is worth noting the colour similarity of the two planets. On the 24th Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation from the Sun when it will be setting ninety minutes later than the Sun. The next day on the 25th it crosses into Cancer where it will spend the rest of the month.

Venus:    The "Morning Star" is on a swift journey back to superior conjunction with the Sun in August. At the start of June it will rise ninety minutes before the Sun but by the end of the month will rise only fifty minutes before the Sun. On the 2nd a waning crescent Moon sits three degrees to the south east of Venus.

  Mars:    The planet Mars is also in the western evening twilight in Gemini and setting two hours later than the Sun as June begins. It will have a close encounter with Mercury on the 18th and 19th of the month with Mercury being the slightly brighter of the two. I moves into Cancer on the 29th, spending the last two days of the month there. The two day old waxing Moon sits five degrees to the west of Mars on the 5th of the month.
  Jupiter:    This giant world will be high in the eastern sky after the sun has set early in June and crosses the meridian at midnight on the 11th. It spends the month retrograding in Ophiuchus with a few Messier objects for company. M9, a magnitude 7.9 globular cluster lies four degrees to the north and M19, another globular cluster is four and a half degrees to the south. The full Moon sits four degrees to the north west of Jupiter.

  Saturn:    The ringed planet enters the evening sky two hours later than Jupiter and at the start of the month will be rising just before 8:00pm and in a great position to be observed all night long. By the end of the month it will cross the eastern horizon just prior to 6:00pm. The waning gibbous Moon will be just to the west of Saturn on the 19th and to the east of the planet on the 20th.

Moon Phase for June 2019:

3rd   10th   17th   25th 

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July 2018

    Mercury:    July is a great month to observe the elusive inner planet. It begins the month in the western evening sky in Cancer where on the 4th it will pass less than a degree to the south of the Beehive star cluster and on the 5th and 6th sits less than one degree to the north of the magnitude 3.9 yellow giant, delta Cancris. On the 12th Mercury finds itself at its greatest elongation east of the Sun and commences its journey westward and conjunction with the Sun early next month. It moves into Leo on the 15th where it encounters the two day old waxing crescent Moon.

Venus:  The brilliant "Morning Star" is easily located high in the western evening after sunset just south of the head of Leo-The Lion. It spends the entire month crossing from one side of Leo to the other and on the way encounters magnitude 1.4 Regulus, the constitution's brightest star on the 10th of the month. This star is a blue-white son 85 light years away and has a wide magnitude 7.6 companion visible in telescopes and small binoculars. There will be no mistaking which is which as Venus outshines Regulus by a full 2.6 magnitudes. A waxing crescent Moon is situated four degrees to the north of Venus on the 16th of July.

 Mars:   The red planet spends the entire month retrograding in Capricorn. On the first day of July it will rise at 7:10pm but by the end of the month will breach the eastern horizon around 4:30pm and easily observable in the early evening sky. On the 15th it makes its closest approach, just over one degree, to magnitude 4.1 psi Capricorni, a yellow-white dwarf, 48 light years away. The full Moon will be seven degrees to the north-west of Mars on the 27th of the month.

Jupiter:  Retrograding in Libra until the 11th when the giant planet becomes stationary in relation to the stars after which it returns to its eastward motion against the starry backdrop. Jupiter will be the brightest object in that part of the sky until dominated by the waxing gibbous Moon on the 20th and 21st of the month. It crosses the meridian around 7:00pm mid month and so is in an ideal position for observation early in the evening for the entire month.

  Saturn:  Low in the eastern evening sky after the sun has set; Saturn is in an ideal position for observation all night long for the entire month of July. Still retrograding in Sagittarius the magnificent ringed planet never strays more than five degrees from the brilliant fifth magnitude globular cluster M22, a great sight in any moderate sized telescope. The asteroid 4 Vesta remains around ten degrees to the west of Saturn during the month and at magnitude six should be easy to find. The waxing gibbous Moon pays Saturn a visit on the 25th of July.

Moon Phase for July 2018:

6th   13th   20th   28th

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August 2018

   Mercury. The inner planet reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 9th after which it moves into the early morning sky and hard to spot. At its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 27th it rises less than one hour before the Sun and lost in the early morning twilight. Give it a miss this month.

Venus. Unmistakable as the brilliant "Evening Star", Venus spends the entire month of August in Virgo having moved into that constellation on the 1st. Traveling eastward through Virgo it encounters beta Virginis in the 4th, gamma Virginis on the 18th and is within two degrees of Spica, Virgo's brightest star on the last day of the month. The waxing crescent Moon passes by Venus on the 14th and 15th of August.

   Mars. Rising at 4:30pm Mars shines brilliantly high in the eastern sky after sunset at the beginning of the month and in an ideal position for observation the entire month. It spends the first 23 days in Capricornus and then spends the rest of the month perched on the border of Capricornus and Sagittarius. The waxing gibbous Moon will be seven degrees to the north of Mars on the 23rd of the month.
  Jupiter. High in the northern sky and just west of the meridian at the beginning of August this is still a great time to observe the giant planet and witness the dance of its Galilean moons. On the 17th it makes its closest approach to alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi, The Southern Claw) when the pair is 34 arcminutes apart. This star is a wide binocular double consisting of a magnitude 2.8 blue-white star and a magnitude 5.2 white star. A waxing gibbous Moon will also be in attendance on this day.
  Saturn. Still slowly retrograding in Sagittarius and rising around 1:30pm mid month, Saturn is ideally situated for observation this month. Looking brilliant among the vast star fields of the central Milky Way its golden hew stands out against the milkiness if these magnificent star fields. The waxing gibbous Moon is two degrees to the north of Saturn on the 21st of August.

Moon Phase for August 2018:

5th   11th   18th    26th

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September 2018

   Mercury. Low in the eastern twilight just before sunrise at the beginning of September, Mercury will be a difficult target for observers this month. It rises forty five minutes before the Sun on the 1st of the month and is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 21st. It will then appear in the western evening twilight but too close to the Sun to safely observe for the rest of the month. October will see Mercury in a much more favorable position to be observed.

Venus. Shining like a searchlight beacon high in the western evening sky after sunset, the "Evening Star" spends the entire month in Virgo. The 1st of September finds it a little over one degree to the south west of Virgo's brightest star Spica, a blue white star 260 light years away. The thin crescent of a waxing Moon joins Venus on the 12th and 13th of the month, a pleasant sight in the western evening sky.

   Mars. Still hanging around in Capricornus where it will be all of September, Mars is still in a very favorable position for observation. High in the north eastern sky after sunset, it crosses the meridian around 9:30pm at the beginning of September but by the end of the month will cross the meridian around 8:00pm. At the time of writing (early August) the red planet was experiencing a severe dust storm and features on its surface very hard to distinguish. These storms can sometimes last for months so conditions may not have improved for September, fingers crossed. A waxing gibbous Moon lies five degrees to the north of Mars on the 20th of the month.

  Jupiter. The giant planet still resides in Libra where it has been since last November and will be low in the western sky after sunset at the beginning of September. By the end of the month it will be setting reasonably early, around 9:30pm so make the most of this month as by the end of October it sets at 9:00pm. The waxing crescent Moon will be four degrees to the north of Jupiter on the 14th of September.

  Saturn. Still the "star" of the show, Saturn reigns supreme high in the north western sky after sunset early in September and in a great position for observation. It is in illustrious company at the beginning of the month. It is just over one degree from the open star cluster M21, less than two degree from the Trifid Nebula M20 and just over two degrees from M8, the Lagoon Nebula. The first quarter Moon will be four degrees from Saturn on the 17th of September.

Moon Phase for September 2018:

  3rd   10th   17th   25th 

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October 2018

   Mercury, Venus and   Jupiter. October sees Mercury, Venus and Jupiter sharing the western evening sky. Mercury sets later and further from the Sun as the month progresses while Venus moves ever closer to the Sun with each passing day. On the 16th these two will set together just after 7:30pm. Venus continues its westward march reaching inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 27th while Mercury progresses eastward, passing three degrees to the south of Jupiter on the 29th of the month. The thin crescent of the new Moon joins the trio on the 11th and 12th of October.

   Mars. The red planet is still in Capricornus where it will spend the entire month of October. The dust storm which plagued the planet on its nearest approach to the Earth in August still remains but has cleared slightly and the south polar cap and a few surface features can now be glimpsed through the thinning dust. Over the month the planet's disc shrinks from 16 arcseconds to 12 arcseconds with a significant reduction in its brightness. The waxing gibbous Moon will be three degrees to the north-west of Mars on the 18th of the month.
  Saturn. Sunset finds Saturn high in the northern sky and in a good position for observation early in the evening but make the most of it as it will be setting around midnight in mid October. It begins the month two degrees to the east of Messier objects M8, M20 and M21 but moves away from them as the month progresses. The crescent Moon and Saturn will be just over three degrees apart on the 15th of the month.

Moon Phase for October 2018:

2nd  9th  17th  25th  

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November 2018

   Mercury. The inner planet can be found in the western evening sky after the Sun has set early in the month. It reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 7th when it will be setting two hours later than the Sun. Each evening after that it will set earlier until the 27th when it will reach inferior conjunction with the Sun and set at the same time as the Sun. The thin crescent of a waxing Moon will be in the vicinity of Mercury on the 9th and 10th of the month.

Venus The brightest planet returns to the morning sky this month, regaining the title of the "Morning Star". On the 15th it makes a close approach to magnitude 1.0 Spica, Virgo's brightest star when the pair will be just over one degree apart. By the end of the month Venus will be rising a full two hours before the Sun.

   Mars. High in the north western sky after sunset the red planet begins the month in Capricornus, crossing into Aquarius in the 12th where it will spend the rest of the month. Its ruddy glow is unmistakable among the faint star fields of these two constellations. The waxing gibbous Moon passes two degrees to the south of Mars on the 16th of the month.
  Jupiter. Only visible for the first few days of November after which it will be setting too close to the Sun for safe observation. It will attain superior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th of the month as it enters the early morning sky. It would be better ignored until mid December when it will be rising one hour before the Sun.

    Saturn. High in the western evening sky in Sagittarius, the ringed planet sets just before midnight at the beginning of November but by the end of the month only two hours later than the Sun. By the end of the month it will have moved to within one and a half degrees of the magnificent fifth magnitude globular cluster, M22. The thin waxing crescent Moon sits five degrees to the west of Saturn on the 11th of the month.

Moon Phase for November 2018:

1st   8th    16th   23rd   30th

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December 2018

   Mercury. The inner planet returns to the morning sky reaching its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 15th of the month. On this date it will rise a little over one hour prior to the Sun having just crossed the border from Libra into Scorpius. It only remains in Scorpius for a few days crossing into Ophiuchus on the 21st where it has a close encounter with Jupiter on the 22nd. The two will be separated by less than one degree. A very thin waning crescent Moon sits two and a half degrees to the north of Mercury on the 6th of the month although the pair may be a challenge to spot in the early morning twilight.

Venus. At the onset of December, Venus rises two hours before the Sun and reigns supreme in the eastern morning sky until the rising Sun later robs it of its brilliance. It starts the month in Virgo, moving into Libra on the 14th. The thin waning crescent Moon will be four degrees to the north of Venus on the 4th of December.

   Mars. The red planet begins December in Aquarius, crossing into Pisces on the 22nd of the month when it will be just south of the circlet of stars marking the head of one of the fish. Mark your calendar on the 7th of the month when Mars and Neptune will only be separated by five minutes of arc. The distance between Mars and the Earth has increased drastically since the disappointing opposition in July when a dust storm obscured most of the surface of the planet. The angular size of Mars when the two are at conjunction has shrunk to nine arc seconds but a medium sized telescope at around 200 magnification should show up the blue colour of Neptune to the contrasting red of Mars. The first Quarter Moon will be five degrees to the east of Mars on the 15th of the month.

  Jupiter. Also in the early morning sky but hard to spot in the bright morning twilight at the start of the month. By the end of the month however it will rise around 4:00am, two hours before the Sun and in a better spot for observation. It begins the month in Scorpius and moves into Ophiuchus on the 14th prior to its close encounter with Mercury on the 22nd.

  Saturn. The Ringed planet sets two hours later than the Sun at the beginning of December. By the middle of the month however will set only one hour after the Sun and getting harder to spot in the late evening twilight. The two day old waxing crescent Moon and Saturn will be ninety arcminutes apart on the 9th of the month.

Moon Phase for December 2018:

7th   15th  23rd   29th 

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