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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Marc Jobin
    Planets visible to the naked eye

    From January 10 to 24, 2022

    Mercury ends a good evening apparition. Until January 16, look for the tiny planet low in the southwest, 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury’s brightness decreases rapidly after mid-January, at the same time it sinks back toward the Sun. Mercury passes through inferior conjunction, between Earth and the Sun, on January 23, and will return in February for an apparition in the morning sky.

    Venus passed through inferior conjunction, between Earth and the Sun, on January 8. It emerges as the Morning Star just a few days later: look for it low in the south-southeast 30 minutes before sunrise. Venus rapidly pulls away from the Sun’s glare, however, and by the end of January, it’s visible almost two full hours before sunrise.

    Mars reappears gradually in the morning sky. The Red Planet can be seen one hour before sunrise, low in the southeast, a few degrees to the left of bright orange star Antares. At dawn on January 29, the waning crescent Moon hangs 3½ degrees to the lower right of Mars.

    Jupiter appears soon after sunset more than 20 degrees high in the southwest. The bright Giant Planet sinks toward the west-southwest horizon where it vanishes around 7:30 p.m. With each passing day, the gap between Jupiter and the Sun is becoming smaller, and Jupiter appears lower and lower at nightfall. On February 2, the waxing crescent Moon hangs 4 ½ degrees to the lower left of Jupiter.

    Saturn is sinking closer to the Sun with each passing evening. When the Ringed Planet shows up at dusk, it is less than 10 degrees above the west-southwest horizon, and appears lower every day. We’ll lose sight of Saturn in the Sun’s glare during the last week of January; the planet passes behind the Sun (conjunction) on February 4.

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