October 2016

October 2016 starts with a new moon. Mercury is easy to spot below Leo in the morning. Venus, Saturn, and Mars are evening objects. You won’t see Jupiter at first.   Mercury is heading from greatest elongation late in September to superior conjunction on the 27th. So try to see it in the first week or two of the month. Even better, try to see it just 0.8° from Jupiter on the 11th. The messenger planet will drop below the big planet after that. Then Jupiter will climb to a pre-dawn spot below Leo, although Leo will have climbed a bit higher by then.   In the evening sky, Venus will move leftward each evening until it’s below Saturn on the 28th and 29th. Saturn is clearly to the right of Venus by the end of the month. The moon passes these wanderers, Venus on the 3rd and 4th, Saturn on the 6th, and Mars on the 8th and 9th. The moon is at first quarter around the time is passes the red planet.   Full moon is on the 16th, it’s waning gibbous during an occultation of Aldebaran on the 19th, last quarter on the 22nd, and new moon comes again on the 30th just two mornings after a thin crescent passes by Jupiter. The moon is farthest south on the 8th and farthest north on the 20th.     That occultation of Aldebaran is visible from eastern and southern USA and Central America.   Mars is at perihelion on the 29th. Venus is at aphelion on the 31st.     Uranus is at opposition on the 15th. It’s 18.95 astronomical units (earth-sun distances) away. Seeing it at this time will be made harder by the nearly full moon. Uranus is close to the western fish in Pisces. It will move just a little from night to night.   And your best chance to see the first known asteroid is this month. Ceres is at opposition on the 21st. It’s 1.9 astronomical units away. It takes a small telescope or binoculars to see it. It also requires a dark sky. With the moon at last quarter, your best bet is to look during the evening. Ceres is south of the point where the fish of Pisces are joined. It will also move a little from night to night.   Meteor showers this month include the Draconids and Orionids. The Draconids peak at about 10 per hour around the 8th. The Orionids will show about 20 to 30 meteors per hour around the 22nd.  

September 2016

Jupiter and Venus are separating in the evening sky after sunset after that remarkably close conjunction on August 27 and 28. Both are barely above the horizon. Venus is going leftward or to the south. It will stay above the horizon just after sunset all month while Jupiter gets lost in dusk’s glare. Find a thin […]

August 2016

There’s something unusual about this month. None of the naked eye planets are visible in the morning. Two of them will be hard to spot in the evening. Look west just after sunset. Venus is barely above the horizon. Jupiter is above it and to the left. Between them but closer to Venus you can […]

July 2016

July 2016 provides the chance to see five naked eye planets in one viewing session right after the sun goes down. Two of them will be close to the horizon as darkness sets in. So they won’t be up long. Let’s start with Jupiter. The big planet will move slowly below the belly of Leo […]

June 2016

When June starts, Saturn is up all night. It’s at opposition on the 3rd. You’ll see the ringed planet rising just under Mars in the east as the sun goes down. Don’t confuse Mars with Antares which has nearly the same red color. The red planet rises a little before the red star and is […]

May 2016

As May starts, Orion sets shortly after the sun. The twins of Gemini are above him. Leo is just past the meridian with Jupiter at his belly. Virgo is high and still rising. Arcturus is high in the east. Jupiter is just about holding still in the sky when May starts, but it moves eastward […]

April 2016

As April 2016 starts, the Taurus V and the Pleiades are high in the west at sunset. Orion is a little higher and sets after them. Canis Major is closer to the meridian and so sets about midnight. Leo is high in the east with Jupiter just below it. Mercury is a little hard to […]

March 2016

March starts with just one naked eye planet visible at sunset. Jupiter is rising just below Leo. It will stay in about the same place all month. Opposition for Jupiter is on the 8th. It’s 4.435 astronomical units from Earth on the date. Boötes and Virgo rise a few hours later in the evening. Mars […]

February 2016

In the early part of this month, you’ll be able to see all five naked eye planets in the sky at the same time. You may think the best view is on the mornings in the first week of February. The moon is new on the 7th. So a waning moon will serve as a […]

January 2016

Mercury is an evening object at the start of the month. If you can find it, it will be below the stars of Capricornus at nightfall. The Great Square of Pegasus is high just west of the meridian at sunset, the Pleiades and Hyades are high in the east, and Orion is rising. You’ll find […]