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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers

    From April 9 to 23, 2018

    Mercury is presently too close to the sun and is not observable. The tiny planet passed between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction) on April 1st and will emerge gradually in the morning sky for an unfavourable apparition. We’ll be able to see it with much difficulty very low on the eastern horizon, between 20 and 30 minutes before sunrise, at the end of April and in early May.

    Venus is the bright Evening Star that pierces the colours of twilight in the west, as early as 15 minutes after sunset. Venus is gradually pulling away from the Sun and now sets more than two hours after our daytime star. On April 17, at dusk, the thin crescent moon appears less than 6 degrees to the lower left of Venus: with binoculars, admire the earthshine that dimly lights the otherwise dark section of the lunar disc.

    Mars emerges above the southeast horizon around 2:30 a.m., and climbs above the south-southeast horizon at dawn. The Red Planet now shines to the left of Saturn, and the gap between them widens with each passing day. On the morning of May 6, the waning gibbous moon stands less than 2 degrees above Mars.

    Jupiter appears above the east-southeast horizon around 10:30 p.m. and culminates 27 degrees high in the south around 2:30 a.m. During the night of April 29 to 30, the full Moon hangs a few degrees to the right of Jupiter. The following evening, April 30, the waning gibbous Moon shines 5 degrees to the left of Jupiter. Watch them as they rise together above the east-southeast horizon: an impressive sight!

    Saturn emerges above the southeast horizon around 2:00 a.m., and gains some height during dawn until it becomes lost in the brightening glow of approaching sunrise. Mars now shines to the left of Saturn, and the gap between the two planets widens with each passing day. On the mornings of May 4 and 5, the waning gibbous moon hangs a few degrees to the right, and then to the left, of the ringed planet, respectively.

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