Mercury and Venus. Both the inner planets are low in the western evening twilight at the beginning of the new year. On the 1st Venus will set thirty minutes later than the Sun and Mercury around 40 minutes later. Venus however moves very quickly toward the Sun and is in inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 9th of the month taking up its position later in the month in the morning twilight as the "Morning Star". Mercury heads in the other direction and reaches its easternmost separation from the Sun on the 7th. It makes a reasonably close approach to Saturn on the 13th when the pair are separated by just over three degrees. The smallest planet then moves back toward the Sum for inferior conjunction on the 23rd. A very thin waxing crescent Moon joins Mercury on January 4th.
Mars. The red planet rises two hours before the Sun at the beginning of the month but by the end of the month will cross the eastern horizon three hours before the Sun. It begins the month in Ophiuchus, crossing into Sagittarius on the 20th into the star clouds of the galactic centre. It crosses into Sagittarius on the 20th, passing between Messier 20 and Messier 8 on January 26th. The thin crescent of a waning Moon sits five degrees to the east of Mars on the 30th of the month.
Jupiter. High in the north western sky after sunset at the beginning of the month the largest planet will be setting three hours later than the Sun. However by the end of the month it will set only ninety minutes later than the Sun. Make the most of this month to observe Jupiter as it begins to get too close to the Sun in February to be safely observed. The waxing crescent Moon sits four degrees above Jupiter on the 6th of January.
Saturn. This is the last chance to take a look at Saturn as it heads toward conjunction with the Sun early next month. It sets almost two hours later than the Sun at the beginning of the month but by month's end only 15 minutes later than the Sun and lost in the Sun's glare. The waxing crescent Moon joins Saturn on the 4th and 5th of the month.
Moon Phase for January 2021
03rd, 10th, 18th, 25th.
Mercury. In the early morning sky, the inner planet rises just over one hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month. It will reach its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 17th when it will rise around 90 minutes prior to the Sun and in a great position for observation. The beginning of the month finds it in Sagittarius crossing into Capricornus on the 15th and on the last day of the month ends up only two degrees to the west of Saturn. On this day the two planets will be joined by a waning two day old crescent Moon.
Venus and Mars. Deep in Sagittarius for the entire month of February, Mars makes a nice colour contrast among the background star fields and the brilliant white of Venus. The first day of the month finds Mars sitting at the top of the teapot asterism of Sagittarius and one degree to the north of the Magnitude 6.9 globular cluster M28. On the 5th of the month it sits between the Magnitude 8.8 globular cluster NGC 6642 and the magnificent 5th magnitude globular cluster M22. Ambling its way through Sagittarius it finds itself in close conjunction with the brighter Venus on the 12th and the pair travel together in the constellation for the rest of the month. On the 27th and 28th the waning crescent Moon will be in attendance of the two planets. The Magnitude 7.8 asteroid Vesta sits less than two degrees to the north-east of Mars on the last day of the month.
Jupiter. Low in the western evening twilight at the start of February and setting a couple of hours later than the Sun. However it very quickly moves closer to the Sun and by the end of the month it will set only few minutes later than the Sun and lost in the bright twilight sky before returning to the morning twilight next month.
Saturn. The ringed planet returns to the morning twilight after conjunction with the Sun on the 5th and not really observable until toward the end of the month when it will rise 90 minutes before the Sun. The last day of the month finds it less than three degrees to the east of Mercury and joined by the waxing two day old crescent Moon.
Moon Phase for February 2022
1st, 8th, 17th, 24th.
Mercury. Venus. Mars. Jupiter and Saturn.
When too many planets are just not enough! Mercury and Saturn begin the month together early in the dawn twilight in Capricornus accompanied by a thin waning crescent Moon. The pair have a close conjunction on the 3rd when Mercury passes less than one degree to the south of Saturn. On this day they will rise together almost two hours prior to the Sun. Mercury then heads back through Aquarius toward the Sun for superior conjunction with the Sun early next month. Saturn on the other hand sets off in the other direction for an encounter with Venus on the 28th when they will be separated by just over two degrees and rising almost four hours before the Sun. Venus will be by far the brighter of the two shining magnificently at magnitude -4.33 in comparison to Saturn's magnitude 0.84. The colour contrast between the two should be evident with the bright white of Venus and subtle golden hue of Saturn. They will be closely attended by the waning crescent Moon on the 28th and 29th of the month. Not to be outdone, the red planet, Mars is also in the picture, rising only thirty minutes before Venus and Saturn. It should make a great spectacle on the 28th with the three planets within a five degree circle and the Moon only five degrees away. On the last couple of days of March Jupiter can be spotted much closer to the eastern horizon and rising around 90 minutes before the Sun accompanied by Neptune twelve minutes later. Jupiter will be in a much better position for observation next month.
No doubt there will be questions asking if the Solar system will tip over with all of these planets on the same side of the Sun?, Well, I really donít think so but if it does Bruce Willis will be here to save us.
Look forward the extremely close conjunction with Jupiter & Neptune on the 13th of next month.
Moon Phase for March 2022
3rd, 10th, 18th, 25th.
Mercury. The smallest planet attains superior conjunction with the Sun on the 3rd of the month before returning to the western evening sky. It reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 21st but because of the sharp angle of the ecliptic to the horizon, sets only forty five minutes later than the Sun. This will make it a little hard to spot in the western twilight sky.
Venus. Mars. and Saturn. On April fool's day these three planers lie within a six degree circle on the eastern edge of Capricornus. By the 5th of the month Mars moves to within half a degree of Saturn while Venus sneaks quietly over the border into Aquarius heading for a rendezvous with Jupiter at the end of the month. Because of its faster orbit around the Sun, Mars slowly moves away from Saturn, joining Venus in Aquarius on the 12th. On the 28th Venus and Neptune will be separated by less than thirty arcseconds although Neptune may be swamped by the magnificence of Venus. On the last day of the month Venus will have moved closer to Jupiter with only one degree separating the two. On the first day of next month there will be an extremely close conjunction between this pair, an event not to be missed telescopically. From the 25th to the 28th a waning crescent Moon will be in the vicinity of the four planets.
Jupiter. This giant of the Solar System rises 90 minutes before the Sun at the start of the month but by the end of the month will breach the eastern horizon almost three hours before the Sun, closely attended by the much brighter Venus. The much fainter magnitude 8 Neptune is hiding just three degrees to the west of this pair. The waning crescent Moon sits four degrees below Jupiter on the 28th of the month.
1st, 9th, 17th, 23rd
Mercury. Probably not a good month to observe the elusive Mercury. It sticks quite close to the western horizon until inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 22nd after which it returns to the eastern dawn sky and hidden in the early morning twilight.
Venus. The first day of May finds Venus in a very close conjunction with Jupiter when the two will rise together over three hours before the Sun. They will be separated from each other by only thirteen arcminutes, less than half the diameter of the Moon making them visible together in the same telescopic eyepiece at low magnification. Venus is on its slow journey back toward the Sun so will leave Jupiter behind as it travels eastward against the background stars and crosses from Pisces into Aries on the last day of the month. On the 27th the waning crescent Moon will sit two degrees above Venus.
Mars. The red planet begins the month in the early morning sky in the constellation of Aquarius. It slips into Pisces on the 18th where it passes less than one degree to the south of Neptune heading toward a close conjunction with Jupiter on the 30th of the month.
Jupiter. At the beginning of May, Jupiter rises a little over three hours before the Sun and in close conjunction with the "Morning Star". There can be no mistaking which one is which as Venus outshines Jupiter by a full two magnitudes. The red planet sidles up to Jupiter on the 29th and 30th when the two are less than one degree apart. Jupiter will be a couple of magnitudes brighter than Mars and the ruddy colour of mars will certainly give away its identity. The waning crescent Moon forms a tight triangle with both Jupiter and Mars on May the 25th.
Saturn. The golden ringed planet rises a little before midnight as May begins but by the end of the month will rise around 9:30pm. The 7.6 magnitude asteroid Vesta moves to within one degree of Saturn on the 2nd making for a great opportunity to check out this small Solar System object. The first quarter Moon slips past Saturn on the 22nd and 23rd of the month.
Moon Phase for May 2022
The second new moon in the same month is often referred to as the "Black Moon"
1st, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
Mercury. As June begins, Mercury rises in the early morning twilight a little over one hour before the Sun in Taurus. It will reach its greatest elongation west of the Sun on the 17th and then begin its journey eastward back toward the Sun. This is a good time to observe this small body in a relatively dark sky as it will then rise almost two hours before the Sun. On the 22nd it will locate itself less than one degree from Magnitude 3.5 epsilon Tauri giving the impression the Bull now has two angry red eyes. It travels swiftly through Taurus for the rest of the month heading for a close encounter with supernova remnant M1 on the second day of next month. The waning crescent Moon resides five degrees to the north-west of Mercury on the 27th with the pair rising around 90 minutes before the Sun.
Venus: The "Morning Star" shines brilliantly high in the morning sky as at the beginning of June it will be rising three hours before the Sun among the faint starfields surrounding Aries-The Ram. Now on its journey back toward the Sun it has a 90 arcminute conjunction with Uranus on the 12th, finishing the month just north of the Hyades star cluster. The waning crescent Moon pays Venus a visit on June 26th.
Mars and Jupiter. The God of War and the God of Thunder and Lightning begin the month together high in the northern sky five hours before sunup and less than two degrees apart in Pisces. They don't stay together for long as Mars in its faster orbit around the Sun travels eastward in relation to the background stars and finishes the month nineteen degrees to the east of Jupiter and twice as bright as the red planet. The waning crescent Moon sits close to Jupiter on the 22nd and joins Mars on the 23rd.
Saturn. In Capricornus and very close to the border of Aquarius, Saturn begins its retrograde loop this month and appears to travel westward against the background stars for the next four months. It rises around 9:30pm at the beginning of June but by the end of the month it will cross the eastern horizon a full two hours earlier and beginning to get into a reasonable position for the early evening observers. A waning gibbous Moon sits four degrees to the south of Jupiter on the 19th of the month.
Moon Phase for June 2022
8th, 14th, 21st, 29th
Mercury. Lost in the morning twilight and heading back toward superior conjunction with the Sun on the 17th, Mercury will be better observed next month.
Venus. The "Morning Star" will slowly begin to be lost in the glare of the Sun as the month progresses and by the end of the month will rise a little over one hour prior to the sun. It begins the month in Taurus close to the Hyades star cluster but crosses into Gemini on the 19th where it is joined by the waning crescent Moon on the 26th.
Mars. Rising around 1:30am at the beginning of July, Mars spends the first few days of the month in Pisces before moving into Aries on the 9th of the month. The eastward motion of the red planet brings it to within two degrees of magnitude 5.7 Uranus on the last day of the month. The waning crescent Moon sits three degrees to the east of Mars on the 22nd.
Jupiter. The giant planet rises a couple of minutes before midnight at the beginning of the month but by the end of the month will rise a full two hours earlier. It will be joined by the waning gibbous Moon on the 19th and 20th.
Saturn. Retrograding in Capricornus, Saturn rises around thirty minutes before 9:00pm at the onset of July and at magnitude 0.56 easily outshines magnitude 2.9 delta Capricorni less than two degrees away. The waning gibbous Moon is in the vicinity on the 15th and 16th.
Moon Phase for July 2022
7th, 14th, 20th, 29th
Mercury. August is a great month to observe this small planet. At the start of the month Mercury sets over one hour later than the Sun and much later as the month progresses. The 4th of the month finds Mercury in close conjunction with Leo's brightest star, magnitude 1.4 Regulus when only 43 arcminutes separate the pair. At magnitude 0.4 Mercury is the brighter of the two and obvious by its ruddy appearance. It spends most of the month in Leo, crossing into Virgo on the 22nd where it reaches its greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 27th and setting two hours later than the Sun. The thin crescent of a young Moon can be observed just below Mercury on the 29th and just above the planet on the 30th. The star nestled within half a degree of the Moon on the 30th is magnitude 3.6 gamma Virginis, Porrima, thirty six light years away.
Venus. In Gemini in the early morning sky at the beginning of August and rising 90 minutes prior to the Sun on the 1st of the month. It will reside within a degree of M44, the Beehive star cluster in Cancer on the 18th but unfortunately by the end of the month it will be getting a little too close to the Sun for safe observation.
Mars. The red planet begins the month in Aries rising just after midnight and crossing into Taurus on the 10th of August. On the 2nd Mars passes to the south of the ice giant Uranus with just over a degree separating the two planets. Continuing on its merry way eastward in relation to the stars it will be six degrees to the south of the Pleiades star cluster on the 20th and making its way toward the Hyades cluster by the end of the month. The waning crescent Moon will also join in the scene on the 20th.
Jupiter. Rising around 10pm at the start of August, Jupiter spends the whole month in Cetus-The Whale. It stands out easily by itself in this area of the heavens with no bright stars in its vicinity. The waning gibbous Moon pays it a visit on the 15th.
Saturn. Still in the eastern extremities of Capricornus, Saturn will rise around 6:30pm during the first few days of August. By the end of the month it will however be breaching the eastern horizon just after 4.00pm and ideally situated for observation all night long as it comes to opposition on the 15th. As the planet approaches opposition the rings appear to brighten quite dramatically as the shadow of each ring particle is hidden behind that particular particle in a phenomenon known as the Seelinger effect. The full Moon pays Saturn a visit on the 12th of the month.
Moon Phase for August 2022
5th 12th 19th 27th
Moon Phase for September 202-
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