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  • December 17, 2018

Planets visible to the naked eye - December 17, 2018

  • Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan
Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

From December 17 to 31, 2018

Mercury is visible in the east-southeast at dawn, between 45 minutes and one hour before sunrise. As Jupiter moves away from the sun’s glare and emerges above the horizon, it crosses paths with Mercury: On the morning of December 21, the two planets shine less than one degree apart.

Venus is the dazzling Morning Star visible at the end of the night and at dawn. It emerges above the east-southeast horizon about 3 ½ hours before sunrise; at dawn, it stands more than 25 degrees high in the south-southeast. On the morning of January 1, the waning crescent Moon shines 5 degrees to the upper right of Venus. The next morning, January 2, the thin lunar crescent hangs between Venus and Jupiter.

Mars is receding from Earth since its opposition in late July. The Red Planet is fading, but remains conspicuously bright: it appears at dusk more than 40 degrees high in the south, and sets in the west after 11:00 p.m. During the evening of January 12, the waxing crescent moon approaches within 6 degrees of the Red Planet.

Jupiter is now fairly easy to spot at dawn: you’ll find it very low in the southeast, about 45 minutes before sunrise. As it pulls away from the sun’s glare and gains elevation at dawn, the Giant Planet becomes easier to see. It also crosses Mercury’s path: On the morning of December 21, the two planets shine less than one degree apart. On the morning of January 3, the waning crescent Moon hangs 3 degrees to the left of Jupiter.

Saturn is now lost in the glare of the sun. The ringed planet passes behind the sun (conjunction) on January 2 and will reappear at dawn a few weeks later.

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