What the Planets are doing this month


JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

January 2024

   Mercury and    Mars..  The elusive Mercury rises in the dawn twilight one hour before the Sun on the first day of the year in Ophiuchus before crossing into Sagittarius on the 11th of the month. It will attain its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 13th when it will rise 90 minutes before the Sun and located less than half a degree from the 8th magnitude widely scattered open cluster NGC 6469. On its journey back toward the Sun it will pass less than one degree to the north of M20, the Trifid Nebula on the 15th, M21 on the 16th and M22 on the 21st. Mercury begins a close encounter with Mars on the 17th and for three days the pair will be less than one degree apart with Mercury showing up as the brighter of the two. The thin crescent of the waning Moon rises just before Mercury on the 10th of January.

Venus.  The brightest of the planets crosses many borders this month. It rises two and a half hours before the Sun in Libra on the 1st of the month before crossing into Scorpius on the 2nd for a brief visit and then into Ophiuchus on the 6th and into Sagittarius on the 21st. Following a similar path to Mercury it passes the widely scattered open cluster NGC 6469 on the 22nd before moving on to M20 on the 24th and on to M22 on the 30th of the month. The ten percent illuminated waning crescent Moon sits just over five degrees to the south of Venus on the 9th of January.

  Jupiter.  After sunset at the beginning of January Jupiter can be easily spotted high in the northern sky crossing the meridian around 8:30pm. Shining at magnitude -2.65 it stands out among the fainter stare of Aries where it is joined by the waxing gibbous Moon on the 18th and 19th of the month. It is always good to watch its orbiting Galilean moons which are visible even in small binoculars.

  Saturn. This will be the last chance to observe the ringed planet this time around.  Rapidly sinking lower into the western evening twilight as January progresses, as it will reach conjunction with the Sun next month. The three day old waxing crescent Moon will be situated less than two degrees to the north-west of Saturn on January 14th.

Moon Phase for January 2024

4th,   11th,   18th,   26th.  

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February 2024 

   Mercury,   Venus   and      Mars.  These three planets share the early morning twilight at the start of February. Venus, by far the most brilliant of the trio will rise two and a half hours before the Sun on the 1st, followed by Mars forty five minutes later and Mercury a few minutes later again. Mercury rapidly departs the scene as it heads back toward superior conjunction with the Sun at the end of the month. The other pair play tag across Sagittarius where Mars passes within one degree of magnitude 8.6 globular cluster M75 on the 13th before slipping into Capricornus the very next morning. On the 17th Venus also crosses into Capricornus for a close encounter with Mars and from the 21st to the 24th the pair will be separated by less than one degree. On the 8th and 9th the thin crescent of a waning moon shares the scene with the three planets.

  Jupiter.  High In the north-western sky after sunset, Jupiter presents itself as a bright magnitude -2.2 beacon among the relatively fainter stars of Aries. Eleven degrees to Jupiterís east it may be worth taking a look for magnitude 5.77 Uranus. Donít be fooled by the slightly fainter magnitude 6.3 star located less than one degree to the north of Uranus. The waxing crescent Moon lies four degrees to the north of Jupiter on the 15th of the month.

Saturn.  Setting only eighty minutes later than the Sun at the beginning of the month, Saturn is rapidly lost in the early evening twilight as it moves toward conjunction with the Sun on the 29th. It moves into the early morning twilight and by the end of March will rise a couple of hours before the Sun among the sparse star fields of Aquarius.

Moon Phase for February 2024

3rd,   10th,   17th,   24th.  

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March 2024

   Mercury. March is not the best month to observe the smallest of the planets. Even at its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 25th it will set less than forty five minutes later than the Sun and hard to spot in the evening twilight.

Venus,     Mars and    Saturn.  In the early morning dawn sky at the beginning of March, Venus rises two hours before the Sun on the 1st of the month but by month's end will rise barely one hour prior to the Sun. At this stage even shining at magnitude -3.9 it will be getting ever more difficult the spot in the morning twilight as we progress into April. Beginning the month in Capricorn it will be less than four degrees to the east of Mars on the first day of the month moving into Aquarius on the 10th for a close encounter with Saturn on the 22nd. The pair will be less than half a degree apart on this date and visible together in the same telescopic field. The waning crescent Moon enters the scene on the 8th and 9th of the month.

  Jupiter.  As the Sun sets at the beginning of the month Jupiter can be found low in the western evening sky shining a magnitude -2.2 and setting three hours later than the Sun. In the constellation of Aries the ice planet Uranus, will be less than four degrees to the north of Jupiter on last day of the month. Jupiter will be joined by a four day old waxing crescent Moon on the 14th. 

Moon Phase for March 2024

4th,   10th,   17th,   25th.  

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April 2024

   Mercury, Venus,     Mars and    Saturn. It seems these four naked eye planets have decided to gather in the early morning sky this month. The first to breach the eastern horizon is Mars which at the beginning of the month raises three hours before the Sun. It will be followed thirty minutes later by Saturn and a further sixty minutes later by the unmistakable Venus. Mercury, the smallest planet sets thirty minutes later than the Sun in the evening sky at the start of the month but after going through inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 12th will join the other three by the end of the month rising then two hours before the Sun. Saturn quickly overtakes Mars and by the 11th the pair will be less than half a degree apart. On the 19th and 20th Mercury and Venus will be less than two degrees apart but very hard to observe being only twelve degrees west of the Sun and hiding in the early morning twilight. By the end of the month Venus will rise only forty minutes before the Sun and not safe for observation. A waning crescent Moon joins Mars and Saturn on the 6th of April and Venus on the 7th of the month. On the last two days of the month it will be worthwhile checking out Mars telescopically as the outer blue ice giant, Neptune will be within half a degree of the red planet.

  Jupiter. Low in the western evening sky at the beginning of April Jupiter will be setting ninety minutes later than the Sun on the 1st day of the month. However by the end of the month it will set only forty minutes later than the Sun and hard to spot in the late evening twilight. On the 11th the two day old crescent Moon joins Jupiter with the Pleiades star cluster nearby making a nice vista.

Moon Phase for April 2024

2nd,   9th,   16th,   24th.  

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May 2024

   Mercury. This month offers a great opportunity to observe this elusive little planet but you will need to get up early. On the first of the month Mercury will rise almost two hours before the Sun but on the 10th when it reaches its greatest elongation west of the Sun it will rise over two hours earlier than the Sun. It begins the month in Pisces, crossing into Cetus for a couple of days on the 18th and 19th and moving into Aries on the 20th of the month. The waning crescent Moon pays Mercury a visit on May the 6th.

  Venus. The brightest of the planets rises forty minutes before the Sun at the beginning of the month and too close to the Sun to be safely observed this month.


   Mars. The red planet spends the entire month in Pisces rising three hours before the Sun on the 1st of the month and finding magnitude 8 Neptune one degree to its west on this day. By the end of the month however, Mars will be rising almost four hours prior to the Sun. The waning crescent Moon situates itself between Mars and Mercury on May the 5th.

  Jupiter. In conjunction with the Sun on the 19th, Jupiter will be out of action until the latter part of June.

  Saturn. The ringed planet rises just after 2:00am at the start of May but by the end of the month will rise around 12:30am. The waning crescent Moon will be two degrees to the west of Saturn in the early morning of the 4th but around 9:00am there will be a daylight occultation of Saturn by the Moon visible from parts of eastern Australia south of the Sydney region.

Moon Phase for May 2024

1st,   8th,   15th,   23rd,  31st.  

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June 202-


   Mercury.   

Venus.   
  Mars.  

  Jupiter. 

  Saturn.  
   

Moon Phase for June 2024

6th,   14th,   22nd,  30th.  

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July 202-

    Mercury.   

Venus and  Mars. 

Jupiter. 

  Saturn.  

Moon Phase for July 2024

6th,   14th,   21st,  27th.  

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August 202-

   Mercury and    Mars. 

Venus.

  Jupiter. 

  Saturn. 

Moon Phase for August 2024

4th,   13th,   20th,  26th.  

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September 202-

   Mercury.   .

Venus. 

   Mars. 

  Jupiter.  

  Saturn. 

Moon Phase for September 2024

3rd,   11th,   18th,  25th.  

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October 202-

   Mercury.

Venus.  

   Mars.

  Jupiter. 

  Saturn. 

Moon Phase for October 2024

3rd,   11th,   17th,  24th.  

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November 202-

   Mercury. 

 Venus.

   Mars.

  Jupiter. 

  Saturn.  

Moon Phase for November 2024

  1st,    9th,   16th,     23rd. 

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December 2023

   Mercury.  The inner planet sets ninety minutes later than the Sun on the 1st of the month, reaching its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 4th. It attains inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd, returning to the morning dawn twilight by the end of the month when it will be rising one hour before the Sun.

Venus.  The "Morning Star" begins the month in Virgo rising two hours before the Sun on the 1st of the month where it encounters the thin waning crescent Moon on the 10th before crossing into Libra the next day. On the 18th it will be situated two degrees to the north of magnitude 2.8 alpha Librae, Zubenelgenubi, Libra's second brightest star. This star, 75 light years away is a wide binocular spectroscopic double consisting of a blue-white star with a white magnitude 5.2 companion. Venus ends the month very close to the stars depicting the head of the Scorpion and rising ninety minutes before the Sun.

   Mars.  Having just entered the early morning sky last month, Mars is too close to the Sun for safe observation this month.

  Jupiter.  After the Sun has set at the beginning of December, Jupiter is situated high in the north east sky and in a great position for observation. At magnitude -2.84 it really stands out among the stars of Aries. On the 22nd the waxing gibbous Moon is situated three degrees to the north of Jupiter.

  Saturn.  Still idling about among the reasonably scattered starfields of Aquarius, Saturn at magnitude 0.83 is readily identified by its distinct yellow tinge. It crosses the meridian around 6:30pm at the beginning of the month and by Sunset sits high in the north western sky. Even with its rings preparing to shut down and be edge on to the earth in eighteen months time it is still a spectacular sight in telescopes of a reasonable size. The waxing crescent Moon passes by the planet on the 17th and 18th of December.

Moon Phase for December 2023

  5th,   13th,    20th,   27th.

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Dec 2024  1st,    9th,   15th,     23rd. 

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