2018, April 10: The Morning Planets and the Moon

Less than a month before its opposition, Jupiter gleams from the southwest this morning. The planet is now rising in the east-southeast at about 10 p.m. Jupiter is retrograding near the star Zubenelgenubi.

Mars and Saturn are farther east, beyond the star Antares. Saturn rises before 2 a.m. with Mars following closely behind. Saturn’s opposition is in June. Mars’ opposition is July, three oppositions in 79 days.

This morning Mars and Saturn are about 4 degrees apart.  Saturn begins to retrograde in a week (April 17).

The waning crescent moon (24 days old) is low in the east-southeast this morning, outside the frame of the planets.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

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2018, Summer: Evening Planet Parade: Five Bright Planets Visible During One Evening

For about a month near the summer solstice, five planets are visible during the early evening, but they are not easily visible simultaneously from mid-northern latitudes.  As the sky darkens a parade of planets extends across the sky from brilliant Venus in the west to Mars in the southeast. The “X” factor of seeing 5 planets simultaneously is Mercury. It reaches its greatest elongation on July 12, although Mercury is visible throughout its apparition.

For more southerly locations in the United States and farther southern latitudes, see this article:  2018:  Five Planets Visible at Once

Here’s how to look for the five planets:

June 16, 2018:  Start looking for Mercury early it its apparition, although the rising time for Mars is much later.  From an observing location with a clear horizon, locate the speedy planet Mercury 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury sets 63 minutes after sunset, 15 minutes before Nautical Twilight (sun’s altitude is -12°).  Mars rises in a dark sky nearly 3 hours after sunset.  At 30 minutes after sunset on this evening, Venus is 25° to Mercury’s upper left.  The waxing crescent moon (3.3 days old) is 7.9° beyond Venus.

July 2:  Again with binoculars first locate Mercury 10° up in the west-northwest 30 minutes after sunset with brilliant Venus 16.6° to Mercury’s upper left.  Regulus is 8.1° beyond Venus.  Mars touches the east-southeast horizon 25 minutes after Mercury sets and 15 minutes before the end of twilight.

July 12: At sunset, Mercury is 13° up in the west-northwest.  Thirty minutes later, it has an altitude of only 8.5° with brilliant Venus 16.4° to its upper left.  Venus is 3.4° beyond Regulus.  Mercury sets 78 minutes after sunset and Mars touches the southeast horizon at the same time.  Locate Mercury, then wait until Mars clears the east-southeast horizon.

July 17: The best evenings for seeing all five planets are around this date, but you’ll need optical assistance.  Thirty minutes after sunset, dimmer Mercury is 5.1° above the horizon.  Mercury is dimmer as the apparition continues so optical aid is needed to first locate it. Regulus is 9.5° to the upper left of Mercury with Venus 8.5° beyond the star.  Mars rises six minutes before Mercury sets, although both are low in the sky.    Twilight lingers for over 2 hours at this time of the year at mid-northern latitudes.

On July 17, 2.5 hours after sunset and after Mercury sets, the planet parade arches across the southern sky.  Brilliant Venus sparkles 5° up in the west and Mars is 5° up in the southeast.  Saturn is 32.8° to the upper right of Mars, above the Teapot of Sagittarius.  Jupiter is 50.8° to the west of Saturn and 1.8° to the west of Zubenelgenubi.  The moon (5.0 days old) is nearly between Venus and Jupiter.

Another opportunity to see five planets simultaneously, from mid-northern latitudes, occurs in the morning near the time of the summer solstice in 2020.  While these groupings are infrequent, they provide magnificent displays of the solar system’s beauty.

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2018, April 2: Mars-Saturn Conjunction Morning

Mars passes 1.2 degrees below Saturn this morning.  Watch Mars move away from  Saturn during the next several days.  Saturn begins to retrograde on April 17, heading toward its opposition in  June.

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On the larger scale, Jupiter is in the southwest.  A bright waning gibbous moon (just outside the frame beyond Jupiter) illuminates the scene.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 25: The Morning Planets, Mars On the Move

A clear sky prevails this morning with the bright planets in the south.

Mars closes in on Saturn in the south-southeast. This morning they are 4.4 degrees apart. Mars passes Saturn on the morning of April 2.  Watch Mars  close the gap during the next week.

Bright Jupiter gleams in the southwest.  It is retrograding near the star Zubenelgenubi.  This morning they are 7.5 degrees apart.  Jupiter passes the star in early June.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 22: The Morning Planet Parade, Mars Closes In

Mars is marching toward its April 2 conjunction with Saturn. This morning they are about 6 degrees apart.  Watch Mars close the gap each morning.

Meanwhile, farther west, Jupiter is retrograding.  It is about 8 degrees from Zubenelgenubi, the brightest star in Libra.  Jupiter passes the star in June.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018: March 18: Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, The Morning Planet Parade, Mars Approaches Saturn

The bright morning planets shine in the south this morning.  Mars, now well past Antares, is approaching Saturn.  This morning Mars and Saturn are 8 degrees apart.  During the next two weeks watch Mars close the gap and pass Saturn on April 2.

Bright Jupiter is toward the southwest, retrograding toward the star Zubenelgenubi.  It moves slower and passes the star in June.  This morning, they are 7.9 degrees apart.

This evening Venus, Mercury and the crescent moon appear in the western sky after sunset.  See the details in the link below.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 13: Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, The Morning Parade Moves On.

The morning planets shine in a partly cloudy sky this morning, Bright Jupiter appears in the south-southwest 8 degrees from the star Zubenelgenubi.  Jupiter passes that star in June as the planet retrogrades.  Mars passed Jupiter in January.

Looking eastward past Antares is Mars as it approaches Saturn.  Mars passes the Ringed Wonder on April 2.  This morning, Mars is 10.5 degrees from Saturn.  Watch Mars close the gap during the 3 weeks.

These three planets join Venus in the evening sky later in the summer.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):