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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From June 19 to July 3, 2017

    Mercury passes behind the sun (superior conjunction) on June 21 and reappears in the evening sky by month’s end. Using binoculars, look for the tiny planet very low in the west-northwest, about 30 minutes after sunset; a perfectly clear horizon is necessary to catch it. Mercury is brighter at the beginning of this evening apparition, but remains bright enough until at least the third week in July. The thin crescent moon will appear near Mercury on the evenings of July 24 and 25.

    Venus is the bright Morning Star, visible above the eastern horizon at the end of the night and at dawn; Venus rises about two and a half hours before the sun. A thin crescent moon will appear near Venus on the mornings of June 20 and 21. For a few mornings around July 10, Venus passes between the famous Hyades and Pleiades star clusters in the constellation Taurus.

    Mars is presently too close to the sun and is not visible. The red planet will pass behind the sun (conjunction) on July 26, and will remain out of sight until it reappears in the morning sky in September.

    Jupiter dominates the evening sky: the bright planet appears at dusk some 35 degrees high in the southwest, and then gradually descends toward the western horizon where it sets around 1 a.m. Bright star Spica shines with a bluish-white tint a few degrees to the lower left of the giant planet. The first quarter moon appears 4 ½ degrees from Jupiter on June 30.

    Saturn was at opposition on June 15. The Ringed Planet is presently visible all night: it appears in the southeast at dusk, culminates around midnight, 22 degrees above the southern horizon, and vanishes in the southwest at dawn. The full moon passes just 2 ½ degrees above Saturn on the evening and night of July 6 to 7.

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