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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From March 13 to 27, 2017

    Mercury reappears at dusk after mid-March. Look for the tiny planet low on the western horizon, 30 minutes after sunset. On March 19, Mercury shines 9 degrees due left of bright Venus. The thin crescent moon will hang less than 10 degrees to the left of Mercury on the evening of March 29.

    Venus is sinking rapidly toward the Sun and goes through inferior conjunction on March 25, passing about 8 degrees north of our star and officially entering the morning sky. Until the 23rd we can still catch it as the Evening Star, very, very low on the western horizon right after sunset. From March 21 to 23, it will even be possible to see Venus both in the evening, in the west, as well as in the morning, very low in the east right before sunrise; a perfectly clear view of the horizon, and a pair of binoculars, will be necessary to successfully achieve this challenging double observation.

    Mars appears at dusk more than 25 degrees above the west horizon. The Red Planet presently shines with an orange tint, similar in brightness to the brighter stars. It sets in the west-northwest around 10:30 p.m. On the evening of March 30, the crescent moon rests 7 degrees to the left of Mars.

    Jupiter emerges above the east-southeast horizon around 9:30 p.m. and dominates the second half of the night. Around 2 a.m., the giant planet culminates in the south, shining brightly some 38 degrees above the horizon; bright star Spica shines with a bluish-white tint a few degrees to the south. At dawn, Jupiter can be found in the west-southwest. The waning gibbous moon will appear near Jupiter during the nights of March 13 to 14 and 14 to 15.

    Saturn is visible at the end of the night and at dawn. Look for the Ringed Planet low in the southeast, after 3 a.m.; at dawn, it stands about 20 degrees above the south-southeast horizon. The last quarter moon hangs 2 ½ degrees above Saturn on the morning of March 20.

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