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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From June 18 to July 2, 2018

    Mercury passed behind the sun (superior conjunction) on June 5, and gradually emerges in the evening sky during the second half of June. Scan the west-northwest horizon, 30 to 45 minutes after sunset, in search of the tiny planet; binoculars may help you locate it in the glow of twilight. Mercury is brighter at the beginning of this observing window, and becomes fainter with every passing day.

    Venus is the bright Evening Star that pierces the colours of twilight in the west, as soon as the sky begins to darken in the minutes after sunset. Venus is gradually pulling away from the Sun and sets more than two hours after our daytime star. On the evening of July 15, the lunar crescent hangs 2 degrees to the right of Venus: with binoculars, admire the earthshine that dimly lights the otherwise dark section of the lunar disc. The scene becomes truly magnificent when the sky darkens, about 45 minutes to one hour after sunset.

    Mars emerges above the southeast horizon around 11:30 p.m. and culminates in the south at dawn. The Red Planet begins its retrograde loop on June 28: until late August, it will move westward (toward the right) with respect to the background stars. During the night of June 30 to July 1, the waning gibbous moon hangs a few degrees above the Red Planet.

    Jupiter appears above the southern horizon during evening twilight, about 29 degrees in elevation; it spends the rest of the evening slowly descending toward the west-southwest horizon where it vanishes after 2 a.m. The waxing gibbous Moon shines a few degrees to the upper left of Jupiter on the evening of June 23.

    Saturn appears during evening twilight above the southeast horizon, culminates around 1 a.m. about 22 degrees high in the south, and then gradually descends toward the southwest horizon where it vanishes at dawn. During the night of June 27 to 28, the full moon hangs just one degree above the ringed planet.

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