2018, March 3: Venus – Mercury Conjunction

Update: Mercury passes about 1 degree from Venus on March 3.

Brilliant Evening Star Venus and bright Mercury shine during the evening twilight on the evening of March 3.  Both planets are emerging from their superior conjunctions.  Mercury’s conjunction is February 17; Venus was January 9.

The chart above shows the planets about 30 minutes after sunset.  Brilliant Venus is 5 degrees above the horizon.  Mercury is 1 degree to the right.  It is bright, yet about 5 times dimmer than Mercury.  Binoculars may be required to first identify Mercury.  It should easily viewed without optical assistance once it’s located.

Find a clear western horizon to locate the pair.

 

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

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2018, January 4: Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars

Bright morning star Jupiter shines from the southeast this morning. It is now well past Zubenelgenubi. This morning it is 2.3 degrees from the star.

Mars is heading toward its very close conjunction with Jupiter on January 7. This morning it is about one degree from the Giant Planet.

Mercury, just past its greatest elongation, appears near the horizon.  It is still a naked eye planet.  Find a clear horizon to see it.

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

2018: January 1: Jupiter, Mercury and Mars

On this New Year’s morning bright Morning Star Jupiter shines from the southeast with Mars nearby. Mars is 1.8 degrees from Jupiter and heading for a very close conjunction in six days.

Over a week ago, Jupiter passed Zubenelgenubi for the first conjunction of three (triple conjunction) during this appearance.  The second conjunction is June 2.

Mars is marching eastward compared to the starry background.  Just a month ago it passed Spica, now 20 degrees to Mars’ upper right.

Meanwhile, Mercury reaches is greatest elongation today low in the southeastern sky,  Mercury passes Saturn on January 13.  Find a clear horizon to see them together.

2017, December 17: Jupiter, Mercury and Mars

Mercury joins bright Morning Star Jupiter and Mars during this morning’s twilight.  This speedy planet is approaching its greatest western (morning) elongation in January 1.  This morning it is 28 degrees to the Giant Planet’s lower left.  Mercury is the brightest “star” near the horizon shining from the approaching sunrise.  It is easily visible without binoculars or a telescope.  Find a clear horizon to see it.

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

2018, March 18: Venus, Mercury and the Moon

Venus enters the evening sky early in 2018, setting later each night.  By March 1 Venus sets about 100 minutes after sunset, although before the end of twilight. Mercury has its best evening appearance with its greatest elongation on March 15.  On March 18, Mercury passes about 4 degrees from Venus with the moon 4 degrees beyond Venus.  The moon is just 35 hours past its new phase.

After the conjunction, Venus continues to set later; by the end of the March, it sets after twilight ends.  Mercury dashes back into the sun’s glare toward its inferior conjunction on April 1, reappearing in a difficult-to-see apparition in the morning sky.

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

2018, January 13: Mercury – Saturn Conjunction

The Mercury-Saturn conjunction of January 13, 2018.

Mercury makes one of its best morning appearances during the year as the new year begins.  On January 13, Mercury passes less than one degree from Saturn.  Jupiter is 44 degrees to the upper right of the conjunction with the moon about midway from Saturn to Jupiter.  While dimmer, Mars is about 3 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter and 5 days after its conjunction with the Giant Planet.

Mercury has a conjunction with Jupiter late in the year.

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

2018: The Morning Sky

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Update:  January 6, 2018, Jupiter  and Mars

This article summaries the planetary activity in the morning sky during 2018.  The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

The chart above shows the rising times of the planets, stars near the plane of the solar system, and the moon (circles) compared to the time of sunrise.  The chart is drawn for Chicago, Illinois in the U.S.A. Central Time Zone from data from the U.S. Naval Observatory.  The three phases of twilight are displayed as well.  The chart generally displays activity in the eastern sky, except for the setting lines for Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.  These three planets set in the western sky; their setting times are compared to sunrise.  Each is at opposition during 2018:  Jupiter, May 8; Saturn, June 27; and Mars, July 27.  When at opposition, Earth is between the sun and one of those planets.

The three naked eye outer planets — Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — are displayed when they are setting in the west during the morning.

It is important to emphasize that the chart shows rising times.  When the rising lines of two objects cross, it indicates that they rise at the same time.  Because we have chosen planets and stars along the ecliptic, the virtual path along which the sun, moon and planets appear to move along, they can appear at conjunction or near each other.   This can occur within a few days of the date of coincident setting.  For the purposes of the chart, the conjunction is indicated on the rising time curve of the brighter planet.  To consider when two planets rise at the same time, think about this: Betelgeuse, the reddish-orange star at Orion’s  shoulder, rises at about the same time as Castor in Gemini.  The stars, though, are 33 degrees apart in the sky.  Betelgeuse rises in the east and Castor rises in the northeast.

The white squares on the chart indicate conjunctions between planets or stars and planets.  For Mercury, the yellow triangles with the letters “GE” indicate the planet’s greatest separation from the sun as we see it; this is known as greatest elongation.  For Venus, the yellow diamond with the letters “GB” indicate when the planet is at its brightest.

Four planets are visible in the morning sky early in the year.  Mercury makes one of its two best appearances in January.  The second occurs at the end of the year.  Mars moves past Jupiter and Saturn early in the year.  Mercury makes two more morning appearances during twilight:  April and August.  Venus jumps back into the morning sky late in the year.  Jupiter also re-enters the sky later in the year.

Here are some highlights from planetary events in the morning sky  (Click the images to see the details):

 

 

The morning sky has a sky full of planets leading up to oppositions from Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.