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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From November 5 to 19, 2018

    Mercury undergoes a very poor evening apparition for Northern Hemisphere observers. The tiny planet is visible with much difficulty very low in the southwest, 20 minutes after sunset. A perfectly clear horizon and the use of binoculars will be key to success in spotting Mercury in the lingering glow of sunset, about 10 degrees to the left of much brighter Jupiter. On the evening of November 9, the thin waxing crescent Moon hangs 6 ½ degrees above Mercury.

    Venus passed between Earth and the Sun (inferior conjunction) on October 26, but it rapidly pulls away from the sun: you’ll find the bright Morning Star low in the east-southeast, 45 minutes before sunrise. On the morning of November 6, the thin waning crescent Moon hangs 9 degrees to the left of Venus.

    Mars is receding from Earth since its opposition in late July. Although it is slowly fading, the Red Planet remains a conspicuously bright object: it appears in the south-southeast at dusk, culminates around 6:30 p.m. (Standard Time) some 30 degrees high in the south, and sets in the southwest around 11:30 p.m. During the evening of November 15, the first quarter moon glides within 2 degrees below the Red Planet.

    Jupiter is visible with much difficulty in the minutes that follow sunset, very low on the west-southwest horizon. Binoculars are a must to locate it. The giant planet vanishes in the glare of the sun around mid-November, and passes behind our star (conjunction) on the 26th; it will reappear at dawn in December. On the evening of November 8, the thin waxing crescent Moon hangs 3 degrees above Jupiter.

    Saturn appears during evening twilight about 15 degrees high in the southwest, and then gradually descends toward the horizon where it vanishes around 7:00 p.m. (Standard Time). On the evening of November 11, the waxing crescent moon shines 3 degrees to the upper left of the ringed planet.

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