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  • December 31, 2018

Planets visible to the naked eye - December 31, 2018

  • Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan
Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

From December 31, 2018, to January 14, 2019

Mercury is visible in the east-southeast at dawn, 30 minutes before sunrise. The tiny planet is sinking back toward the sun, and it appears lower on the horizon with each passing day: it becomes lost in the glow of approaching daylight during the second week of January. Mercury passes behind the sun (superior conjunction) on January 30, and will reappear in the evening sky during the second week of February. On the morning of January 4, the waning crescent Moon shines less than 3 degrees above Mercury.

Venus is the dazzling Morning Star visible at the end of the night and at dawn. It emerges above the east-southeast horizon 3 ½ hours before sunrise; at dawn, it stands about 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 about 45 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 an easy target at dawn: the very bright Giant Planet emerges in the southeast about 1 ½ hours before sunrise, to the lower left of even brighter Venus. Jupiter pulls away from the sun day by day, gains elevation at dawn, and climbs toward Venus: the two brightest planets come within 2 ½ degrees of each other on the morning of January 22. On the morning of January 3, the waning crescent Moon hangs 3 degrees to the left of Jupiter.

Saturn is too close to the sun and is not visible. The ringed planet passes behind the sun (conjunction) on January 2 and will reappear at dawn a few weeks later.

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