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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From January 15 to 29, 2018

    Mercury is visible with difficulty at dawn until about January 22. Using binoculars, search for the tiny planet very low on the southeast horizon, 30 minutes before sunrise. But Mercury is drawing closer to the Sun and appears lower every passing day; it vanishes completely in the Sun’s glare during the last week of January. Mercury passes behind the Sun (superior conjunction) on February 17, and will reappear in the evening sky in early March.

    Venus is too close to the Sun and is not currently visible. Venus passed behind the Sun (superior conjunction) on January 9, but will not reappear in the evening sky until the very end of the month.

    Mars rises in the east-southeast shortly before 3 a.m., and can be found in the south-southeast at dawn. The Red Planet shines a few degrees to the left of bright Jupiter, but the gap between them is increasing on a daily basis. On the morning of February 8, the lunar crescent appears between Mars and Jupiter, completing a large, flattened triangle with the two planets. The next morning, February 9, the crescent hangs 4 degrees to the left of Mars.

    Jupiter rises in the east-southeast around 2 a.m. and shines in the south-southeast at dawn. The Red Planet shines a few degrees to its left, but the gap between them is increasing from day to day. On the morning of February 7, the last quarter Moon hangs 7 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter. The next morning, February 8, the lunar crescent appears between Mars and Jupiter, completing a large, flattened triangle with the two planets.

    Saturn is gradually pulling away from the Sun’s glare and appears at dawn above the southeast horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. At first, binoculars might help you locate the Ringed Planet in the glow of dawn; but Saturn gains a bit of elevation every morning and become visible against an increasingly darker sky by the end of January. The thin crescent moon passes less than 2 degrees above Saturn on the morning of February 11.

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