Annual meteor showers occur when our planet passes through the dusty debris that are spread broadly along a comet’s celestial path. Each year during mid-August, Earth passes through the track of Comet Swift-Tuttle. Tiny bits of dusty rock smash into our planet’s atmosphere and are vaporized in a quick streak of light — a meteor or shooting star. During this time, the meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but they seem to emerge from the region of the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky during the early evening. As Earth rotates during the night, the point of emergence (radiant) moves higher in the sky. The best viewing occurs after midnight when the radiant is highest in the sky before morning twilight begins,
It is important to note that the rates that are published in the popular press include dim meteors and those that dazzle our eyes and temporarily leave a streaked glow in the atmosphere. It is impossible for any one observer to see all the projected meteor counts. Today many live in cities or larger metropolitan where the glow of bright streetlights wash out the dimmer nighttime stars and dimmer meteors during this shower.
So, for observers in metropolitan areas should half the projected rates (60 meteors per hour). So we’re down to 30 meteors per hour for most observers in metropolitan areas. To see the entire sky, the observer needs an all sky camera to catch all the meteors or four friends who look above the cardinal directions while the single observer looks overhead. So, a lone observer can see 5-6 meteors per hour in a metropolitan area or 10-12 per hour in a dark location. So be patient, especially this year with a bright moon in the sky during the morning.
This year, a gibbous moon adds bright light, so the observable rate is reduced further to perhaps 2-3 in town, 4-6 away from lights.
Here are notes for the mornings of August 11-13 that include some planet observations. Times are in Central Daylight Time for observers near Chicago Illinois.
August 11: The Perseid meteor shower is near its peak. The moon sets a few minutes after 2 a.m. CDT and morning twilight begins about 2 hours later.
August 12: Jupiter is now setting before 1 a.m. CDT. For the Perseids, moonset occurs near 3 a.m. CDT and morning twilight begins an hour later. Bright Mercury is 10° up in the east-northeast, 30 minutes before sunrise.
August 13: For the peak morning of the Perseids, the moon sets about 15 minutes before morning twilight begins. About 30 minutes before sunrise, Mercury, a little brighter than yesterday morning, is nearly 10° up in the east-northeast.
Link to our semi-technical analysis of this apparition.
Venus shines as a brilliant evening star during late 2019 and early 2020. The apparition (appearance) includes conjunctions with Jupiter and Saturn that occur within a month. Then Venus moves past Neptune and Uranus. The appearance includes a close conjunction with the Pleiades and a quasi-conjunction (near conjunction) with Beta Tauri. The apparition ends as Venus dives toward inferior conjunction and has a conjunction with Mercury, followed by a pretty grouping of the two planets, Beta Tauri, and the moon.
The young lunar crescent’s appearance with Venus is always an exciting time to view and photograph the brilliant planet and the moon displaying Earthshine. The best view occurs on November 28, when the pair is 1.9° apart.
The chart above shows the setting time of Venus compared to sunset along with other bright stars near the ecliptic and the moon. The chart is constructed from data from the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois. When the Venus line crosses the lines of other objects, they set at the same time. A conjunction occurs near the intersection. If a moon circle is near one of the setting lines, a conjunction may occur on that date, or on the day before or day after the date the moon and that object are plotted together.
It is important to note that because two objects set at the same time, they may not appear close together in the sky. Two objects that are far apart in the sky can set at the same time. Because objects have been selected for the chart that are near the ecliptic, close conjunctions might occur. While Antares, Aldebaran, and Pollux generally lie near the ecliptic, the conjunctions with planets usually have gaps of several degrees.
Venus passes superior conjunction at 1:07 a.m. CDT on August 14, 2019, nearly 1.3° north of the sun. Because of the time, the conjunction is invisible in the Central U.S., but Venus can be found with optical assistance in a clear sky northeast of the sun after it rises that morning. Great care must be taken for visual observations of the planet in close proximity to the sun
Venus Emerges Into Bright Evening Twilight
Venus climbs into bright evening twilight in the southwestern sky and is soon visible in darker skies. It is headed toward a conjunction with Jupiter in about a month. On October 27, Venus is 20° from the sun and sets in the southwest and about an hour after sunset.
In the charts that follow, several of them are displayed for a time interval after sunset. Use local sources for the time of your sunset. The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online calculator that displays a year of sunrises and sunsets. Enter your state and city into Form A on the website. Make appropriate changes for Daylight Saving Time. For readers outside the U.S., enter your longitude and latitude in Form B for your yearly table. Click here.
The moon makes its first appearance with Venus on October 29, as illustrated above. Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon appears to the upper left of Venus, only 4° up in the southwest with bright Jupiter to the upper left of the pair. The moon is 1.8 days old, past its New phase, and 4.4% illuminated. The moon appears with Jupiter two evenings later (October 31). By early November, Venus continues to set later. By November 4, it sets about an hour after sunset.
Venus – Jupiter Conjunction
For the second time during this apparition of Jupiter, Venus passes the Giant Planet. Watch Venus move into Ophiuchus and then it passes Jupiter on the edge of Sagittarius. The next conjunction is February 11, 2021, but the planets rise during bright morning twilight. On April 30, 2022, the planets rise into the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise 29’ apart, an Epoch Conjunction. During the current apparition, Venus and the moon have a very nice pairing (1.9°) near the end of November. Follow the progress of the 2019 Venus – Jupiter conjunction during November:
On November 9, thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 6° up in the southwest, is 3.9° to the upper right of the star Antares. The Venus – Jupiter gap is 15°. Venus continues to set later, appearing higher at the same time each evening.
By November 13, thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. Venus is 6° up in the southwest. A few evenings later, November 16, Venus is 25° east of the sun. Thirty minutes after sunset, it is 7° in altitude in the southwest.
Venus continues to close in on Jupiter. By November 19, forty-five minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is about 5°. Venus is 4° up in the southwest. The separations until the conjunction: Nov 20, 3.9°; Nov 21, 2.8°; Nov 22, 2.1°; Nov 23, 1.5°, Venus is to the lower left of Jupiter.
On November 24, Venus is closest to Jupiter! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of bright Jupiter. This evening, Venus sets at its southern-most azimuth, 236°. It sets here until December 1. The Venus – Jupiter separations after conjunction: Nov 25, 2°, Venus is to the left of Jupiter; Nov 26, 2.8°; Nov 27, 3.7°, Venus is to the upper left of Jupiter; Nov 28, 4.7°.
On November 26, Venus sets at the end of twilight, over 90 minutes after sunset, when the sun is 18° below the horizon. Venus sets after the end of evening twilight until May 19, 2020.
The next evening, November 27, thirty minutes after sunset look for the crescent moon (1.3d, 2%), about 5° up in the southwest. It is nearly 11° to the lower right of Venus, with Jupiter between them, but Jupiter is closer to Venus.
On November 28, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset) Venus and the moon (2.3d, 6.3%) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest. Both appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens. A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon.
Venus continues to move away from Jupiter. On November 30, Venus passes 0.8° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis, the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius.
Venus – Saturn Conjunction
As Venus moves away from Jupiter, it approaches and passes Saturn. Watch Venus close the gap on Saturn and pass it on December 10. Venus passes Saturn again on February 6, 2021 in a difficult-to-see conjunction, just 5 days before the Venus-Jupiter conjunction of 2021. On the morning of March 29, 2022, Venus is 2.1° from Saturn. Mars is nearby, 4.4° to the upper right of Saturn.
The diagram above on December 2, 45 minutes after sunset, shows Venus about 9° up in the southwest. It is about 10° to the lower right of Saturn. On the next evening, December 3, the three evening planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are nearly equidistant tonight, but they are not along the same arc in the sky: Venus – Saturn, 8.6°; Venus – Jupiter, 9.7°.
Venus continues to move eastward compared to the starry background toward Saturn. On December 5, Venus passes 1.9° to the upper right of Sigma Sagittarii. Venus continues to close the gap on Saturn. Venus – Saturn separations until the conjunction: Dec 7, 4.3°, Dec 8, 3.3°; Dec 9, 2.4°.
Venus passes Saturn on December 10. At mid-twilight, Venus, over 11° up in the southwest, is 1.8° to the lower left of Saturn. Venus – Saturn gaps after the conjunction: Dec 11, 1.9°; Dec 12, 2.5°; Dec 13, 3.4°, Venus is to the upper left of Saturn; Dec 14, 4.4°, Dec 15, 5.4°. Venus continues eastward against the starry background, moving farther away from Saturn. on December 19, one hour after sunset, Venus, 12° up in the southwest, is nearly 10° to the upper left of Saturn. Venus moves into Capricornus.
By the end of 2019, the crescent moon rejoins Venus. One December 28, about an hour after sunset, Venus is about 15° up in the southwest. The moon (2.8d, 8%) is 2.4° below the planet.
Venus as an Evening Star in 2020
Venus begins the New Year among the dimmer stars of eastern Capricornus. Now setting abut 3 hours after the sun, watch Venus move eastward into Aquarius and toward a Neptune conjunction.
Venus continues moving eastward, appearing higher in the sky when it is completely dark. By January 27, Venus is 40° east of the sun. At the end of evening twilight, Venus, 18° up in the west-southwest, is 0.2° to the upper left of Neptune, nearly 7° above the crescent moon (3.1d, 9%) and 0.2° to the lower right of Phi Aquarii. A binocular or small telescope is needed to see Neptune.
On the next evening, January 28, at the end of evening twilight Venus, about 18° up in the west-southwest, is 7° below the moon (4.1d, 15%).
Venus Moves Into Pisces
During February brilliant Venus, still moving about 1.2° each day along the ecliptic, moves into Pisces and passes several dimmer stars. The starry background is dim.
By the end of February, the crescent moon is back in the evening sky. On February 26, at the end of twilight, the moon (3.4d, 10%), 14° up in the west, is 10° to the lower left of Venus. On the next evening, February 27, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, 25° up in the west, is nearly 7° to the right of the waxing crescent moon (4.4d, 16%)
Venus Moves Through Aries: A Venus – Uranus Conjunction
During March, Venus crosses into Aries, passing far from the constellation’s brighter stars. It is heading toward a conjunction with Uranus
Venus closes in on the planet Uranus. On March 7, Venus is 2.2° to the right of Uranus. The planet is brighter than Neptune, which Venus passed in January. In a dark sky, Uranus is visible in a dark sky to those with good eyesight. Use a binocular to see it easier.
Venus continues to set later in the evening and appears farther from the sun. On March 24, Venus is at greatest elongation (46.1°) at 5:13 p.m. CDT. We see Venus farthest from the sun during these evenings. At the end of evening twilight, Venus is over 25° up in the west.
As the weather warms in the northern hemisphere, Venus approaches the Pleiades star cluster. Here we reference the Pleiades with its brightest star Alcyone (Eta Tauri) The moon enters the region with Venus. On March 27, Venus is nearly 10° to the upper right of the waxing crescent moon (3.7d, 12%) and 6.5° to the lower right of the Pleiades. Here are the gaps as Venus closes in on the star cluster: March 30, 3.6°; March 31, 2.7°; April 1, 1.8°; April 2, 0.9°, Venus is below Alcyone.
On March 28, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, 26° up in the west, is 8° to the lower right of the moon (4.7d, 18%) and 5.5° to the lower right of the Pleiades. The trio – Venus, Moon, and Pleiades – makes nearly an equilateral triangle. Venus sets at its maximum interval after sunset – 4 hours, 7 minutes, through April 7.
Venus in Taurus: A Spectacular Pleiades Conjunction
In late March, Venus moves into Taurus, heading for a conjunction with the Pleiades. During April, Venus moves between the Pleiades and Hyades and toward Elnath (Beta Tauri, m = 1.6), the Bull’s northern horn. As Venus approaches the star, it begins a rapid descent toward the western horizon, toward its early June inferior conjunction.
On March 30, Venus moves into Taurus, 3.6° to the lower right of Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster. The next evening, March 31, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, over 25° up in the west, is 2.7° to the lower right of Alcyone.
As April opens Venus is in the west near the Pleiades. On April 3, one hour after sunset, Venus, 30° up in the west, is 0.3° to the lower left of Alcyone. This is the closest Venus gets to the Pleiades on this evening appearance.
On the next evening, April 4, on this evening and for the next few evenings Venus and Sirius are at nearly the same altitude in the west at about 9 p.m. CDT in Chicago, a few minutes after the end of evening twilight (about 105 minutes after sunset). While Venus and Sirius are too far apart for technical comparisons of their brightness difference, the brightest star and the brightest planet are the same altitude in the western sky. Sirius, Orion’s belt, Aldebaran, and Venus are nearly in a line across the western horizon. The Venus – Alcyone gap, 0.9°. Gaps as Venus moves eastward along the ecliptic and away from the Pleiades: April 5, 1.8°; April 6, 2.7°; April 7, 3.5°; April 8, 4.6°; April 9, 5.2°.
Venus moves between the Pleiades and the Hyades. On April 9, at the end of evening twilight, Venus, nearly 25° up in the west-northwest, is below a line that extends from Aldebaran to Epsilon Tauri. Venus passes nearly nearly 7° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri on April 12.
Venus continues to brighten from its first appearance in the evening sky. Beginning April 13, Venus reaches its maximum brightness until May 10. The midpoint, April 27, is marked on the setting chart (GB) near the beginning of the article. While the planet may grow brighter, as measured with detailed light measurements through a telescope, our eyes likely cannot perceive the minute difference in brightness during this duration. The planet reaches its latest setting time 11:33 p.m. CDT in Chicago, 243 minutes after sunset. This setting time continues until April 18.
Venus continues its climb through Taurus. On April 14, one hour after sunset, Venus, 30° up in the west, passes nearly 10° to the upper right of Aldebaran. A week later, April 21, Venus sets at its northern most setting azimuth (309°). It sets here until May 14.
As Venus continues through Taurus, it moves toward Beta Tauri, the northern horn of the Bull. On April 26, One hour after sunset, Venus, over 25° up in the west-northwest, is over 7° to the right of the crescent moon (4d, 14%). The planet is 5.5° to the lower right of Beta Tauri. The moon is 5° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri, the southern horn of Taurus.
Venus is at the interval of greatest brightness on April 27. On this evening, the waxing crescent moon (5.0d, 22%) is over 17° to the upper left of Venus. The planet has an elongation of 40°, and it is midway between its greatest elongation and inferior conjunction. Venus is at its greatest illuminated extent. The illuminated portion of the planet covers the largest area of the sky. (For a more technical explanation of greatest illuminated extent, see https://tinyurl.com/venus-greatest-illuminated.) Venus closes in on Beta Tauri. The gaps: Apr 27, 5.1°; Apr 28, 4.6°; Apr 29, 4.1°; Apr 30, 3.7°.
A Venus – Beta Tauri Quasi-Conjunction and a Venus – Mercury Conjunction
During May, Venus rapidly descends toward the western horizon, as measured from its setting time compared to the sun. Venus is nearing its quasi-conjunction (or near conjunction) with Beta Tauri. The gap between the brilliant planet and the star: May 1, 3.3°; May 2, 2.9°; May 3, 2.6°; May 4, 2.3°; May 5, 2.1°; May 6, 1.9°; May 7, 1.7°; May 8, 1.6°, May 9, 1.5°.
On May 10, Venus is at its closest approach to Beta Tauri, a quasi-conjunction or “near conjunction.” One hour after sunset, Venus, over 17° up in the west-northwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of the star.
The next evening, May 11, Venus is 30° east of the sun. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is still 1.4°, but slightly larger than last night, when the small fractions of a degree are included in the measurement. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap begins to widen: May 12, 1.5°; May 13, 1.6°; May 14, 1.7°; May 15, 1.8°; May 16, 2.0°; May 17, 2.2°; May 18, 2.4°.
On May 19, Venus sets at the end of evening twilight, nearly 2 hours after sunset. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, 11° up in the west northwest, is 2.7° from Beta Tauri. As this celestial pair descends toward the western horizon during the next several evenings, Mercury emerges from the sun’s glare for its evening apparition. This evening. Venus is 4.8° to the upper left of Mercury (m = −0.8). Watching Mercury’s rapid movement during the next several evenings, you will see it move from Venus’ lower right to its upper left.
Venus is moving very rapidly toward the sun. On May 20, Venus is 20° from the sun. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is 3.0° and bright Mercury is 2.8° to the lower right of brilliant Venus. During the next few evenings, the Venus- Beta Tauri gap continues to widen: May 21, 3.4°; May 22, 3.8°.
Mercury closes in on Venus. On May 21, Venus, in the west-northwest, is 1.1° to the upper right of bright Mercury, a conjunction. The Venus – Beta Tauri gap is 3.4°.
On May 22, Venus, Mercury, and Beta Tauri make a compact triangle. Venus is 1.6° to the lower right of Mercury; Venus is 3.8° below Beta Tauri; and the Mercury – Beta Tauri gap is 3.4°. Tomorrow evening the moon enters the scene.
During the next evening, May 23, at 45 minutes after sunset, Venus, about 8° up in the west-northwest, is 4.7° to the upper right of the crescent moon (1.3d, 2%). The Venus – β Tauri gap is 4.2°. Mercury is 3.6° to the upper left of Venus and 3.1° to the lower left of Beta Tauri.
This spectacle is not, yet, finished. On May 24, Venus, bright Mercury , Moon (2.3d, 5%), and Beta Tauri are near each other. The planets and the star make a triangle. Mercury is 5.5° to the upper left of Venus, nearly midway from Venus to the moon that is nearly 12° to the upper left of Venus, although Mercury is above a line that connects Venus and the moon. Betai is 4.6° above Venus and 3.5° to the upper right of Mercury. Venus’ elongation from the sun is 15°.
The next evening, May 25, 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is 4° up in the west-northwest. The planet continues to make a triangle with Mercury and Beta Tauri. Venus is 5.1° to the lower right of the star, while Mercury is 4.5° to the upper left of Beta Tauri. Venus sets at Nautical Twilight, over an hour after sunset. The observing window is rapidly closing to see Venus. The gaps of the two planets and star continue to grow as Venus disappears into brighter twilight.
Venus is now quickly disappearing into bright twilight. On May 28, 30 minutes after sunset, Venus is less than 3° up in the west-northwest. The planet is only 9° from the sun, setting only 49 minutes after sunset.
By May 30, Venus sets at Civil Twilight, 32 minutes after sunset. Good-bye, Venus, for this appearance!
On June 3, Venus is at inferior conjunction, 12:44 p.m. CDT, when it is 0.5° north of the sun and 58” across.
This evening apparition of Venus has several exciting conjunctions with planets and stars. As with every evening appearance, Venus slowly moves into the sky. As the evening ecliptic takes a more favorable angle as the weather warms and daylight grows, the planet reaches its latest setting time and greatest brightness as Spring arrives. At this time, it has a spectacular conjunction with the Pleiades and a near-conjunction with Beta Tauri before it seemingly dives between our planet and the sun to reappear in the morning sky. Early during the next apparition, Venus has a double conjunction with Aldebaran and a traverse through the Hyades in a fairly dark sky. It also passes several bright stars near the ecliptic including Regulus and Spica. Appearances of Venus with the moon provide broader views of the sky. As noted in the daily descriptions, Venus has conjunctions with Saturn and Jupiter, but they occur during bright twilight. When the Venusian cycle repeats its motions in eight years, Venus goes into the Pleiades appearing nearly between Merope and Alcyone.
During August, as Mercury makes a morning appearance, brilliant Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, makes its first morning (heliacal) rising just before sunrise. For the latitude on the diagram, about 41.7 degrees, this is August 14, 2019. For locations farther south, this occurs days earlier and later for latitudes farther north.
August 29: Now appearing in the darker morning sky, Sirius is visible with Betelgeuse and Procyon.
Sirius, the Dog Star, is sometimes called the Nile Star as its heliacal rising historically coincided with the flooding of the Nile River. The Dog Days of Summer (in the northern hemisphere) occur, coincidentally, during August when Sirius and Procyon, the Little Dog Star, appear in the eastern sky before sunrise.
Update: August 9, Mercury is low in the northeast. First located with a binocular then observed without its assistance.
Mercury is at greatest elongation on August 9. Because Mercury is closer to the sun than Earth, we see Mercury appear in either the morning or evening sky around the time the sun rises or sets. It appears in the sky earlier each morning or stays there later each night. It reaches its greatest separation from the sun and then seems to reverse its direction, moving back into sunlight, only to repeat the process a few months later at the other horizon and sky setting.
As Mercury moves back toward the sun in August, it is lower in the sky each morning at about the same time. Sirius appears higher in the sky each morning at the same time. And Mercury gets brighter as it appears nearer to the sun. As Sirius appears higher, it seems to brighten because it gets above the thicker atmosphere that tends to diminish the brightness of celestial objects. They are not quite the same brightness, but appear at the same altitude around August 19.
To locate the planet and the star, find a clear horizon in the east-northeast and east-southeast. Start looking for Mercury and Sirius about 30 minutes before sunrise. A binocular may help in viewing them. Mercury is low in the east-northeast, about 10 degrees up. Sirius is very low, in the east-southeast about 3 degrees up when first visible. Sirius may twinkle wildly this low in the sky. To be sure you have Sirius, don’t confuse it with Procyon in the east and a little higher. Orion is higher in the sky and its three belt stars make an imaginary pointer that take us to the area to find Sirius. Reddish Betelgeuse is higher in the sky, Sirius, Procyon, and Betelgeuse make nearly an equilateral triangle known as the Winter Triangle.
Sirius’ heliacal rising occurs every year about this time. This year the event is a little more interesting because a bright planet is in the sky.
The chart above shows the evening positions of Mercury and Mars from June 5, 2019, to June 30, 2019. The moon is part of the scene on June 5 and June 6.
About 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury and Mars are visible in the west-northwest beneath Pollux and Castor, the Gemini Twins. Early in the month, the stars are about one-third of the way up in the sky.
Mercury is beginning an evening appearance. Early in the month, it is brighter, but closer to the horizon.
Twilight lasts longer this time of year, so it’s not visible in the latter sky glow as the sky darkens further. So, the upcoming conjunction with Mars is better viewed with a binocular. Both planets’ movements are easier viewed across several nights.
On June 5, the waxing crescent moon, the waxing crescent moon that is 2.7 days past the New phase and only 9% illuminated is 6.3° to the upper left of Mars, which sets at the end of evening twilight. At this time the Red Planet is about 13° up in the west-northwest, a little over halfway between Castor and Pollux and the horizon.
Each evening until the conjunction, Mercury is closer to Mars.
On June 18, Mercury passes close to Mars, less than the moon’s apparent diameter. The chart above shows them 45 minutes after sunset when they appear in the west-northwest. Use a binocular to locate them. Can you see them without a binocular?
As the month progresses, the planets appear lower and in a brighter sky. Continue to use a binocular to track the planets.
By month’s end, a dimmer Mercury appears to the upper left of Mars.
Venus and Mercury appear near each other on mid-April. There is no conjunction as Mercury does not pass Venus. Mercury moves faster and, typically, its motion causes the two to pass each other. During this event, the two planets do not pass each other but they move within 5° of each other. This event is know as a quasi-conjunction.
Mercury is in a very unfavorable apparition to observe. It appears very low in the east at Civil Twilight, about 30 minutes before sunrise, when the sun is 6° below the horizon. During this appearance this speedy planet does not rise before Nautical Twilight – which occurs about an hour before sunrise; so Mercury visible in a very bright sky, near the horizon. At its greatest elongation, it is only 4° in altitude. Find a clear horizon and use a binocular. First locate Venus then look through your binocular to locate this elusive planet.
The Venus-Mercury gaps:
April 13: 4.5°
April 14: 4.4°
April 15: 4.4°
April 16: 4.3°
April 17: 4.3°
April 18: 4.3°
April 19: 4.4°
April 20: 4.5°
On these mornings, it’s possible to see four planets in the morning sky — Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn — although a binocular may be needed to locate Saturn. The Ringed Wonder is low in the southern sky, less than one-third of the way up in the sky. Jupiter is farther west, to the right of the south direction, at about the same height as Saturn above the horizon.
On a recent trip to a more southerly latitude, the morning planets presented themselves high in the sky. This album shows them on the mornings of February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2019. When travelling farther south, the southern stars and planets appear higher in the southern sky.
Mercury has its best evening display during late February 2019. The planet is almost always visible in bright twilight. Here’s what you need: A clear western horizon and a binocular.
The chart above begins on February 16; Mercury is only 6° up in the western sky. The chart shows the planet’s position 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury appears as a bright star. Find it first with the binocular and then try to locate it with optical assistance.
Each night the planet appears higher in the sky and dims rapidly. By the end of February Mercury is only about half as bright as it appears on February 16 and over twice as high up in the sky.
On February 26, Mercury is at its greatest angular separation from the sun, known as its greatest elongation. On this evening it is about 13° up in the sky. Even past greatest elongation, Mercury appears higher in the sky as the month ends. It is nearly 14° degrees up.
Mercury then heads back into the sun’s glare, appearing lower and rapidly dimming in brightness. By early March, it is difficult to see with the unaided eye. On March 7, the waxing crescent moon passes over 8° to the left of the fading Mercury, but it will not be much help in locating the planet because of its proximity to Mercury.
Astronomy Sky Watching Observing the Sky News & Feature Articles