July 2017

Mercury and Mars are sunset objects for northern hemisphere observers at the start of July. Mercury gets a little easier to see but stays typically close to the horizon all month. Watch for it to pass the star Regulus around the 25th as the constellation Leo lowers in the sky evening after evening. Conveniently, a very […]

June 2017

Mars is in the west just after sunset at the start of June. Find it below Gemini. A thickening crescent moon is approaching Leo. Jupiter is in Virgo on the meridian as darkness sets in while Arcturus is high in the east.. Saturn rises not long after sunset. You’ll find the ringed planet in the […]

May 2017

At the start of May, Orion is setting not long after the sun. Taurus is right of it with red Mars right of the Hyades V rivaling orange Aldebaran. Leo is on the meridian. Jupiter is in Virgo heading toward Porrima near the meridian. Arcturus and Boötes are high in the east.   Night to […]

April 2017

Mercury and Mars are easily seen in the west just after sunset as April starts. Mercury is at its greatest elongation, this time 19° east of the sun on the 1st. Mars is a little above it. You’d better catch the messenger planet while you can though. It’s heading toward inferior conjunction on the 20th. […]

March 2017

In March, Leo rises as darkness sets in. Gemini is a little higher in the east and Orion higher still. Pisces is setting, and you’ll find Mars and Venus alongside the eastern fish at the start of the month. Look for Mars to pass right of a star called Torcularis Septentrionalis and left of another […]

February 2017

Mars and Venus are the planets that rule the evening this month. They’re in the west or southwest at sunset. They keep a steady distance from each other as they move along the western fish of Pisces during the first ten days or so of this month. By the second half of February, Mars and […]

January 2017

If you haven’t seen Neptune or you may have but aren’t sure, your best chance to positively identify it is on New Year’s Eve. Mars is next to it in the evening to the west. The rocky red planet is easy to identify with the naked eye. Point a telescope or binoculars at it to […]

December 2016

For northern hemisphere observers, the sun sets at its earliest times in December. Saturn is not far above the horizon in the southwest as darkness sets in at December 2016’s start. Left of it is Mercury. Above them both is a thin crescent moon. In just a couple of nights, the thicker crescent will be […]

November 2016

Look for a crescent moon in the west just after sunset at the start of November. The two bright planets above and left of it are Venus (on the left) and Saturn. Reddish Antares is below them. For northern hemisphere viewers, this scene is a little south of west. In any case, the moon will […]

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.