What the Planets are doing this month


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec


January 2020

   Mercury. The inner planet returns to the western evening sky on the 11th of the month but remains too close to the Sun for good observation for the rest of the month. Even at its best it will set less than one hour later than the Sun and hard to spot in the evening twilight. Give it a miss this month.

Venus. At the beginning of the month the "Evening Star" sets two hours later than the Sun in Capricornus. It will cross into Aquarius on the 11th where it will have a close encounter with Neptune on the 27th and 28th of the month and joined also on the 28th by the three day old waxing crescent Moon.

   Mars. In Libra as January begins, Mars will be rising three hours before the Sun. It crosses into Scorpius on the 8th and into Ophiuchus on the 16th. On the 19th Mars and Scorpio's brightest star Antares (the rival of mars) will be less than five degrees apart. The similarity in colour of the two objects will be very noticeable with their ruddy glow, Mars at magnitude 1.46 and Antares a little brighter at magnitude 1.0. A waning crescent Moon sits less than three degrees to the north of Mars on the 21st of the month.

  Jupiter. The ringed planet moves into the morning sky this month and is in conjunction with the Sun on the 11th and to close to the Sun for observation until next month.

  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 2020:

   3rd  11th  17th  25th

back to top



February 2020 

   Mercury. The inner planet reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 10th of the month when it will set only forty seven minutes later than the Sun and hard to spot in the western twilight sky. It will be at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th after which it will move into the early morning sky but remain too close to the Sun to be observed for the rest of the month. Give it a miss until next month.

Venus. The "Evening Star" crosses from Aquarius into Pisces on the 3rd where it will remain for the rest of February. Unmistakable in the western evening sky, Venus sets two hours later than the Sun for most of the month and is joined by the three day old waxing crescent Moon on the 27th of the month when the pair will be seven degrees apart.

   Mars. Rising four hours before the Sun in Ophiuchus at the beginning of the month, Mars crosses into Sagittarius on the 12th and into the company of both Jupiter and Saturn. By month's end the red planet will be rising almost five hours prior to the Sun. A waning crescent Moon will sit four degrees to the east of Mars on the 19th of February.

  Jupiter and   Saturn. Both of the gas giant planets spend the month in Sagittarius and begin the month eleven degrees apart. Because of Jupiter's faster orbit around the Sun by the end of the month less than nine degrees separate the pair. On the 20th the waning crescent Moon sits one degree to the east of Jupiter and on the 21st will be four degrees to the east of Saturn. The two planets are easily identified by their respective colours, Jupiter a brilliant white and Saturn with its distinctive yellow tinge.

Moon Phase for February 2020:

2nd    9th     16th     24th   

back to top


March 2020

   Mercury. The inner planet rises thirty minutes before the Sun at the beginning of the month but by the 24th when it will be at its greatest western elongation from the Sun it will rise over two hours prior to the Sun. At magnitude 0.16 Mercury will be the brightest object in that part of the morning sky except for a waning crescent Moon which it encounters on the 22nd when the pair are separated by just over three degrees.
 
Venus. The "Evening Star" begins the month in Pisces moving into Aries on the 5th and on the last day of the month slipping into Taurus and finishing three degrees to the west of the Pleiades star cluster. It reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 25th beginning its journey back to inferior conjunction with the Sun in June. On the 8th and 9th the magnitude 5.5 ice planet Uranus will be just over two degrees south of the brightest planet and on the 28th the four day old waxing crescent Moon sits seven degrees to the south of Venus.

   Mars,  Jupiter and   Saturn. These three planets spend almost the entire month in Sagittarius with Saturn moving into Capricornus on the 26th followed by Mars on the first day of April. Only half a degree separates the red planet from the magnitude 5.1 globular cluster M22 on the first day of March. Mars passes within a degree to the south of Jupiter on the 21st, less than one degree to the north of magnitude 8.6 globular cluster M75 on the 30th and within a degree to the south of Saturn on the 1st of next month. A waning crescent Moon visits the trio on the 19th of the month.

Moon Phase for March 2020:

03rd    10th   16th   24th 

back to top



April 2020

   Mercury. The inner planet rises almost two hours before the Sun at the beginning of April and in a great position for observation for the early risers. On The 4th and 5th of the month Mercury will pass less than two degrees to the south of the magnitude 8 outer planet Neptune and the pair may fit into the same field of a low power eyepiece. It may be a bit of a challenge but on the 22nd Mercury will rise one hour before the Sun accompanied by the thin crescent of a waning Moon and worth a look with a pair of binoculars.

Venus. The evening star begins the month in the western evening sky in Taurus where it joins the Pleiades on the 3rd and 4th of April. It travels through the bull and ends the month four degrees from El Nath, the star marking the tip of one of the horns of the bull. The three day old waxing crescent Moon sits between Venus and the Hyades star cluster on April 26th.

   Mars. On the first of the month Mars is located less than one degree from Saturn in the constellation of Capricornus-The Sea Goat. The contrasting colours of the two planets will be quite noticeable, Saturn with a subtle yellow tinge and Mars with its distinct red hue. Mars sets off   across Capricornus on its eastward journey against the background stars encountering the Moon on the 16th and 17th of the month. Mars will rise just after midnight for the entire month of April.

  Jupiter and   Saturn.  The two giant planets begin the month separated by just over six degrees but because of Jupiter's faster orbit around the Sun, by the end of the month they will have moved to within five degrees of each other. Around the 24th the magnitude 8.6 globular cluster M75 lies midway between the two only three degrees separating it from both planets. Keen eyed observers might wish to search for 14th magnitude Pluto which is 44 arcminutes to the south of Jupiter on the 4th and 5th of April. On the 15th and 16th the first quarter Moon is in the vicinity of Jupiter & Saturn. Jupiter will rise just before midnight midmonth and Saturn twenty seven minutes later.

Moon Phase for April 2020:

1st    8th   15th   23rd

back to top


May 2020

   Mercury. In conjunction with the Sun on May 5th after which it enters the western evening sky while the Sun is in Aries. It quickly crosses into Taurus where it will spend most of the month before moving into Gemini on the 29th of the month. It will be in conjunction with Venus on the 22nd when the pair will be one degree apart and setting in the evening twilight one hour later than the Sun. The thin crescent of a waxing Moon forms a triangle with the pair on the 24th but a bit of a challenge in the western evening twilight.

Venus. This is the last month to observe Venus in the western sky for this apparition and a view through the telescope will show it as a very slender crescent. The brightest planet sets two hours later than the Sun at the beginning of May but by the end of the month will be lost in the western evening twilight setting only twenty minutes later than the Sun. It is in conjunction with Mercury on the 22nd and on the 24th meets the thin crescent of a less than two day old waxing Moon.

   Mars. Continuing its eastern journey against the background stars the red planet starts the month in Capricornus, crossing into Aquarius on the 10th where it will spend the rest of the month. It will be attended there by a waning crescent Moon on the 15th and 16th of the month.

  Jupiter and   Saturn. The two giant planets seem to be locked together this month, separated by less than five degrees all month. Jupiter remains in Sagittarius while Saturn is just across the border in Capricornus. The magnitude 8.6 globular cluster M72 lies between the two and is less than three degrees from both of them. A waning gibbous Moon resides just over three degrees from the two planets on the 12th of May. Jupiter rises around 9:30pm midmonth and Saturn twenty two minutes later.

Moon Phase for May 2020:

1st   7th   14th   23rd   30th 

back to top


June 2020


   Mercury:    The smallest planet begins the month with the twins where it will remain for the entire month. It reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 4th when it will be setting ninety minutes later than the Sun. The thin crescent of the one day old waxing Moon sets just before Mercury in the 22nd and a bit of a challenge low in the western twilight.

Venus:   After inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 4th of the month, Venus reenters the morning twilight taking its place once again as the "Morning Star". It will progress swiftly westward in relation to the Sun and by the middle of the month will be rising ninety minutes before the Sun. On the 12th Venus will be just north of the Hyades star cluster and in a position to give the Bull a new bright shiny eye. It will be joined by a thin waning crescent Moon on the 19th of June.


  Mars:    The red planet spends the best part of the month in Aquarius, moving into Pisces on the 26th of June where it will spend the last few days of the month. Mars rises just before midnight for most of the month as it continues its easterly journey against the background stars. The waning gibbous Moon will sit four degrees to the west of Mars on the 13th and on the 14th Mars and magnitude 7.9 Neptune will be less than two degrees apart. Viewed through a telescope the contrasting colours of the pair should be fairly obvious, Mars with its distinct orange glow and much fainter Neptune with its very subtle blue tinge.
  Jupiter and    Saturn:   The two gas giants spend the month less than six degrees apart, Jupiter in Sagittarius and Saturn just over the border in Capricornus. They are both exhibiting retrograde motion against the starry background at the moment but the movement is very slight and hard to notice from one night to the next. The waning gibbous Moon will be in the vicinity of the pair on the 8th and 9th of the month. Telescopically the pair are a feast, Jupiter with its ever changing Galilean moons and Saturn with its spectacular ring system.

   

Moon Phase for June 2020:

6th   13th  21st   28th  

back to top


July 2019

    Mercury:    Only visible in the western evening twilight for the first few days of July as Mercury moves swiftly back toward conjunction with the Sun on the 21st. On the 4th the thin crescent Moon will be in close proximity to both Mercury and Mars with Mars and Mercury in conjunction on the 9th.

Venus:  Very low in the early morning twilight, Venus will probably only be visible for the first few days of the month after which it will be lost in the glare of the Sun.

 Mars:   The red planet begins the month low in the western evening sky in Cancer. It will be setting ninety minutes later than the Sun on the 1st but by the end of the month, having moved into Leo, will be lost in the evening twilight and setting only thirty minutes later than the Sun. On the 13th and 14th Mars will be less than half a degree to the south of M44, the Beehive open star cluster. The thin crescent of a waxing new Moon pays Mars a visit on the 4th of the month.

Jupiter:  High in the eastern sky after the Sun has set, Jupiter is in a great position for observation all month long. In the constellation of Ophiuchus-The Serpent Bearer, the giant planet will be attended by the waxing gibbous Moon on the 13th and 14th of the month. Pay particular attention to the Great Red Spot which has diminished to around a third of its normal size but intensified in colour.

  Saturn:  The ringed planet rises at 7:40pm at the beginning of July so by nightfall is in an ideal position for observation in the eastern sky. In Sagittarius, Saturn stands out with its subtle golden tinge and superior brightness to the stars of the teapot asterism of Sagittarius. The almost full Moon lies three degrees to the east of Saturn on the 16th of July.

Moon Phase for July 2019:

 3rd   9th   17th 25th 

back to top


August 2019

   Mercury. The inner planet returns to the morning sky this month and rises one hour before the Sun on the 1st of the month. It will reach its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 10th but because of the sharp angle of the ecliptic to the eastern horizon it will still rise only 70 minutes before the Sun.

Venus. The brightest planet reaches superior conjunction with the Sun on the 14th of the month and remains too close to the Sun for observation until the latter part of September.

   Mars. The red planet starts the month very low in the western twilight and remains too close to the Sun for observation this month. It attains superior conjunction with the Sun on the 2nd of next month.
  Jupiter. Rising just after 1:00pm at the beginning of August and by sundown Jupiter will be high in the eastern sky and in an ideal position for observation most of the night. Shining at magnitude -2.3 it really stands out with its brilliant white glow. On the 12th it ceases its backward motion against the stars and returns to its eastward journey against the background stars of Ophiuchus-The Serpent Bearer. The waxing gibbous Moon will be nine degrees to the west of Jupiter on the 9th and five degrees to the east of the gas giant on the 10th of the month.
  Saturn. Rising two hours later than Jupiter, Saturn can be identified by its subtle yellow tinge as it sits a couple of degrees to the east of the teapot asterism of Sagittarius. High in the eastern sky after sunset, Saturn will be visible all night long this month. For the first 22 days of the month Saturn will be within one degree of magnitude 3.8 Omicron Sagittarii, making its closest approach on the 6th when the pair will be just over half a degree apart. There will be an occultation by the Moon of Titan, Saturnís largest moon, visible from most of Australia, at 6:25pm on the 12th followed by an occultation of Saturn ten minutes later. These occultation times may vary slightly depending on your location.

Moon Phase for August 2019:

1st   8th   15th  24th  30th

back to top


September 2019

   Mercury. Returning to the western evening sky this month, the inner planet will be best observed in the latter part of the month. At superior conjunction with the Sun on the 4th, Mercury sets later than the Sun each passing day until by the end of the month it will set 90 minutes later than the Sun. On the 29th it will be situated just over one degree to the north of Virgoís brightest star Spica and the contrast between the ruddy glow of Mercury, the brighter of the two, and Spica's blue white tinge is readily apparent. On the last day of the month the thin crescent of the waxing two day old Moon lies six degrees to the north of the planet.

Venus. By the end of the month Venus, having passed superior conjunction with the Sun last month, begins to take up its duties as the "Evening Star". It will set one hour later than the Sun on the 30th and telescopically show almost its full face to the Earth.

   Mars. The red planet will be in conjunction with the Sun on the 2nd and not available for observation in the early morning sky until November.

  Jupiter. Ophiuchus, the thirteenth constellation of the Zodiac, is still the residence of Jupiter this month and can be found high in the north western sky after the Sun has set. The planet will be joined by the first quarter Moon on the 6th when the pair will be less than three degrees apart. Apart from the Moon, Jupiter at magnitude -2.2 will be the brightest object in that part of the night sky.

  Saturn. High in the northern sky after sunset, at the beginning of the month Saturn crosses the meridian around 8pm. It ceases its retrograde motion against the stars on the 18th and once again sets out on its eastward journey against the starry background. The waxing gibbous Moon will be situated two degrees to the west of Saturn on September the 8th.

Moon Phase for September 2019:

  6th   14th   22nd   29th 

back to top


October 2019

   Mercury. October is a great month to observe the smallest planet which will be visible in the western evening sky after sunset all month long. It reaches greatest eastern elongation from the Sun on the 20th when it will be over 24 degrees from the Sun and setting a full two hours later than the Sun. On the last day of the month the thin crescent of a two day old waxing Moon will sit nine degrees to the east of Mercury.

Venus. The "Evening Star" can also be found in the western evening sky after the Sun has set this month. It sets later than the Sun with each passing day, beginning the month in Virgo and passing into Libra on the 15th of the month. On the 4th Venus will be three degrees to the north of Virgo's brightest star, Spica and on the 21st passes within half a degree of Libra's second brightest star, Zubenelgenubi. The last day of the month finds Venus and Mercury within three degrees of each other with the two day old crescent Moon nine degrees above the pair.

   Mars. The red planet returns to the early morning sky this month and by monthís end will rise 45 minutes before the Sun but lost in the glare of the Sun. Give it a miss until next month.

  Jupiter. Just after the sun has set Jupiter will be very prominent high in the north western sky in Ophiuchus and still in a great position for observation. Although the Great Red Spot has diminished in size an increase in its colour intensity has made it still fairly easy to spot. A waxing crescent Moon joins Jupiter on the 4th of the month and again on the 31st. By the end of the month Jupiter will be setting around 11:00pm.
  Saturn. The magnificent ringed planet is high in the northern sky after sunset early in the month and ideally situated for observation for the entire month. On the 8th the maximum amount of the planet's shadow will be cast onto the rings behind Saturn and well worth a look through the telescope. The first quarter Moon joins Saturn on the 5th and 6th of the month.

Moon Phase for October 2019:

6th  14th   21st  28th 

back to top


November 2019

   Mercury and Venus. The two inner planets begin the month together in Libra low in the western evening sky after the Sun has set. Their pairing is fleeting however as Mercury is in its journey back toward the Sun and Venus is traveling in the other direction, putting more distance between itself and the Sun. Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 12th of November after which it returns to the early morning eastern sky and by the end of the month is rising one hour before the Sun. Venus on the other hand is rising higher in the western evening sky after sunset with each passing day until by the end of the month it will set two hours later than the Sun. It moves into Scorpius on the 2nd, into Ophiuchus on the 8th and into Sagittarius on the 24th where it will end the month half a degree from the magnitude 6.9 globular cluster M28. Venus has a close encounter with Jupiter on the 24th when the two are only ninety arcminutes apart and it passes within half a degree of the magnitude 5.8 Lagoon nebula on the 27th of the month. A thin waxing crescent Moon is in the neighborhood of both Jupiter and Venus on the 28th and 29th of November.

   Mars. The red planet rises almost one hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month and by the end of the month will breast the eastern horizon ninety minutes earlier than the Sun. Mars spends the month in Virgo, passing three degrees to the north of Spica, Virgo's brightest star on the 9th and a waning crescent Moon on the 24th and 25th of the month.
  Jupiter. This giant sets three and a half hours later than the Sun at the start of November but by the end of the month will set only ninety minutes later than the Sun. It has a close encounter with Venus on the 24th when the two are separated by only ninety arcminutes and a thin waxing crescent Moon will be situated just to the west of Jupiter and Venus on 28th of November. Jupiter has been in Ophiuchus since last December but on the 16th of this month joins Saturn in Sagittarius.

    Saturn. High in the north western evening sky after sunset, Saturn is still languishing among the stars of Sagittarius. It is joined in this constellation on the 16th by the giant planet Jupiter and twice this month by the Moon. The first lunar encounter is on the 2nd when the waxing crescent will be less than half a degree from Saturn and again on the 30th when the four day old crescent will be five degrees to the east of the planet.

Moon Phase for November 2019:

4th   12th   20th  27th   

back to top


December 2019

   Mercury. A clear low eastern horizon will be needed to observe Mercury this month. The smallest planet rises around one hour before the Sun for the first half of the month but after that rises too close to the Sun for safe observation.

Venus. The "Evening Star" begins the month in Sagittarius in one of the busiest parts of the Milky Way Galaxy. On its journey across Sagittarius, Venus encounters a few Messier objects, M28 on the 1st, M22 on the 2nd & 3rd and M75 on the 19th, the day before it moves into Capricornus. On the 11th Venus and Saturn will be less than two degrees apart. The thin crescent of a three day old waxing Moon perches two degrees above Venus on the 29th. For those who enjoy a challenge, 14th magnitude dwarf planet Pluto lurks just over a degree to the north of Venus on the 13th of the month. An eight inch or larger telescope will be needed for this task.

   Mars. The red planet, having just returned to the early morning sky, rises 90 minutes before the Sun at the start of December. It passes from Virgo into Libra on the 1st of the month where it will spend the entire month. By Month's end it will be rising over two hours prior to the Sun. Mars sits five degrees to the south of a waning crescent Moon on the 23rd of the month.

  Jupiter. At the beginning of the month Jupiter sets only ninety minutes later than the Sun and will set ever closer to the Sun as the month progresses. It will be in conjunction with the Sun on the 28th of December. Probably best left until toward the end of January when it will rise in the morning sky almost two hours before the Sun.

  Saturn. This month will be the last opportunity to observe Saturn for a couple of months. It sets three hours later than the Sun on the 1st of the month but moves swiftly into the glare of evening twilight as the month progresses. By the end of the month it will set only 45 minutes later than the Sun. Saturn will have a two degree encounter with the brighter Venus on the 10th and 11th of the month.

Moon Phase for December 2019:

01st  12th   19th  26th  

back to top