FOUR PLANETS ARE VISIBLE THIS MONTH, although you’ll have to be quick to spot Mercury, as it starts the month low on the western horizon after sunset and within about a week will have become lost in the Sun’s glare.
Slightly higher in the western sky after sunset is Saturn, shining brightly and visited by the Moon on the 4th.
Jupiter and Mars are still the luminaries of the morning sky—Jupiter high in the north, and Mars low in the north-east. Their brighter sibling, Venus, will not be visible this month, as it is on the opposite side of the Sun from us.
Except where indicated, all of the phenomena described here can be seen with the unaided eye. And unless otherwise specified, dates and times are for the Australian Eastern Standard Time zone, and sky directions are from the point of view of an observer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Look for the very thin crescent Moon low in the west after sunset. The planet Mercury will be about seven Moon widths above and to the right. Mercury is becoming much harder to see now, and over the next week will sink lower and lower toward the horizon and become lost in the Sun’s glare. The innermost planet will reappear in our morning sky out to the east next month.
Today the Moon will be at the closest point to Earth in its orbit, called perigee, at 7:00am. The distance between the two bodies will be 365,755 kilometres.
Look for the Moon and Saturn close together in the west in the early evening sky.
The Moon and the star Spica—the brightest star in the constellation Virgo—will appear close together tonight. The Moon will be about six Moon widths above the star.
It is First Quarter Moon today at 9:08pm. First Quarter is a good time to look at the Moon through a telescope, as the sunlight angle means the craters and mountains throw nice shadows, making it easier to get that 3D effect.
Now almost three-quarters full, the Moon will be near the star Antares—the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. Antares has a reddish colour, and to the naked eye it looks a bit like the planet Mars. In fact, its name means ‘rival of Mars’.
Full Moon will occur today at 4:58am.
If you’ve been wondering why Venus doesn’t appear to be in our evening or morning skies, it’s because it is lost in the glare of the Sun. Today marks its ‘superior conjunction’, which means that it is on the exact opposite side of the Sun from us.
Mercury, which has been lost in the glare of the setting Sun for a while now, today reaches ‘inferior conjunction’, which means that it is exactly between us and the Sun. Mercury will reappear low in the east in the morning sky next month.
Today the Moon will be at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit, called apogee, at 2:24am. The distance between the two bodies will be 405,159 kilometres.
Look out to the east this morning, and you’ll see the Moon and what looks like a very bright star above and to its left. That’s not a star; it’s the planet Jupiter. Even if you don’t have a telescope, a normal pair of binoculars should reveal up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons, looking like small pinpricks of light to one or both sides of the planets.
It is Last Quarter Moon today at 9:55pm.
If you’re an early riser, take a look out to the east and you’ll see the Moon very close to the planet Mars.
New Moon occurs today at 1:04pm.
Today the Moon will again be at the closest point to Earth in its orbit, perigee, this time at 3:36am. The distance between the two bodies will be 360,857 kilometres.
If you have any questions or comments on the night sky, we’d be happy to answer them. Please use the Feedback Form below. Happy stargazing!
Images courtesy IAU.
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