The sky almanac is our guide to sky watching that contains useful information - how to find planets, stars and constellations, and when to look out for them.
Every month there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above.
In predawn skies this October the brightest planets will come close together to each other, with the Moon joining in the mix. Venus (-4.5 mag.), Mars (1.8 mag.) and Jupiter (-1.8 mag.) are strung out in a line at the start of the month. The 1.3 magnitude star Regulus will also be part of this configuration, standing between Venus and Mars from October 1st to October 6th.
Venus is higher at the start of the month reaching Greatest Western Elongation on October 26th. Before then a thin gibbous Moon is 3 degrees is above Venus with the star Regulus left of Venus forming a triangle of a star, a planet and a moon on October 8th.
The Moon is part of another triangle with Mars and Jupiter on October 9. Trace the path of the Moon to the horizon and you may see the planet Mercury low on the eastern horizon as a 0.3 magnitude star. On October 11 the Moon will be 1.2 degrees lower right of Mercury, a good chance to make a positively identify the planet Mercury.
In four days Mercury will be Greatest Western Elongation from the Sun, the highest it will reach away from the Sun.
You can find the thin crescent Moon at sunset on October 15 some 8 degrees right of 0.6 magnitude Saturn. Look early as they are low on the horizon and set early.
Back to the morning parade, Jupiter climbs higher each night as Mars descends to the eastern horizon. Watch these two planets as Mars glides past Jupiter from October 15th - 20th They will be separated by 23 minutes of arc on October 17th. That's less that the width of the Moon. Keep an eye on Venus on those mornings as it nears 1 degrees left of Jupiter on October 25th, Mars completes the triangle at a little over 3 degrees below Venus and Jupiter.
The Moon will interfere with the Orionid meteor shower in the early evening hours on October 21st; the Moon setting around midnight. Watch for Orionids meteors while out watching the parade of planets in the morning sky.
The morning parade of planets and Moon conjunctions continues for another two weeks. Starting with Venus passing close to the right of Mars from November 1st - 3rd They are closest to each other on October 3rd, a little less than 45 minutes of arc between them. Our Moon joins in the parade, pass a little less than 4 degrees right of the -1.9 magnitude planet Jupiter on November 6th.
The next morning, November 7th, the crescent Moon is 2 degrees right of Venus and 3 degrees below Mars, and tight triangle in the sky. With binoculars you might be able to see the 4th magnitude star Beta Virginis, Zavijava, between the Moon and Mars.
For the rest of the month Jupiter, Mars and Venus continue to separate from each other, stringing out in a near straight line on the ecliptic plane.
Once more the Moon will pass by Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the morning sky. Beginning of December 1st the Moon is 4 degrees lower left of -2.0 magnitude Jupiter in the southern skies at sunrise. On December 5th the Moon is 6 degrees right of Mars, the next morning December 6th it is between Mars (1.5 mag) and Venus (-4.2 mag), closer to Mars than Venus.
A daylight event that is worth a mention will occur on Monday afternoon Dec 7th at 12:38 p.m. At that time the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus. The illuminated side of the crescent Moon, 13% illumination, will occult the planet Venus (-4.2 mag., 70% illuminated). Search for the Moon in the WSW sky some 30 to 20 degrees above the horizon before the start of the event. Factors against viewing this event: it's December, it may be cold, they are low on the horizon, and it's daylight. Binoculars and a telescope are required to view this event.
Look for planets Venus and Saturn in the chill morning skies the first week of the month on Jan 3. Venus is higher in the sky and shining brightly at -4.0 magniture. and 6 degrees from Saturn in lower left at 0.5 magnitude. The Moon is much higher from the horizon. In the course of five days the Moon will close in on Venus, closest for us to see on Jan 6.
Notice that Venus has also moved closer to Saturn now only 3 degrees away from the Ringed planet. Tomorrow morning Jan 7, the crescent Moon will have past by both Venus and Saturn and lower to the horizon. Venus is upper right of Saturn by less than a degree on Jan 8. They will be much closer on Jan 9 and Venus will now be lower that Saturn having pass by earlier in the day.
Venus will continue to descend toward the Sun and Saturn climb up higher into the sky each passing day.
The five naked eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all be seen in the morning sky this month after Jan 22. Most difficult to spot will be Mercury,low on the horizon before sunrise. (Not seen is Pluto, but it is around 1 degree from Mercury). December 2004 was the last time these planets could all be seen together in the sky. This year they span over 115 degrees in the sky from Mercury to Jupiter, a much wider span than the one in the year 2004.
Over in morning western sky the Moon will pass by -2.4 magnitude Jupiter on the 27th, the Moon is lower right by 7 degrees, then on the 28th it will be 6 degrees left of Jupiter.
The cold early morning sky is not very hospital around these parts this time of year. Two events with the Moon and planets will
happen this month. Looking south in morning sky on Feb 1st will find the Moon is 2 degrees upper left of Mars.
In the evening sky planet will find planet Venus closing in on the other inner planet Mercury. Closest on Feb 6th when Mercury reach it's Mercury Greatest Western Elongation. Use Venus to locate Mercury to the lower left of Venus. They will both sink into the glare of the Sun by mid month.
Back to the morning sky, looking east at sunset on Feb 23th, the near Full Moon is rising with -2,5 magnitude Jupiter it's upper left.
Hoping for a early Spring weather, you might catch the thin crescent Moon in the morning eastern horizon before sunrise with Venus 2.5 degrees to the right of the Moon. This could be a nice view of the two.
Jupiter, now 13 day past opposition, can be found in the eastern horizon after sunset. On the evening of March 21st the Moon, 2 days before Full Moon, can be found a little less than 3 degrees to the right of Jupiter.
If you missed last month's pairing of the Moon and Jupiter, there will be plenty more to catch this year.
Face east on the evening of April 17th to find Jupiter less than 3 degrees left of the waning gibbous Moon.
This month will be the best of the year to find planet Mercury after the sun sets. Greatest Eastern Elongation will occur on the evening of April 17th, 0.0 magnitude Mercury is some 18 degrees above the horizon at sunset. It should be the brightest object in that part of the sky. Binoculars would be helpful in locating Mercury. Our Moon will not be around this time to help in the location of Mercury. See it early before the beginning of May rolls around.
Looking to the southeast horizon around 1:00 am on Apr 25th a near full Moon is above Mars. The bright star Antares,(color rival of Mars) is 5 degrees below Mars. Saturn is left some 7 degrees of Mars. Mars will be at opposition to the Earth next month.
NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN WITH A TELESCOPE OR THE EYE. ONLY AN APPROVED SOLAR FILTER PLACE IN FRONT OF THE TELESCOPE OBJECTIVE LENS OR MIRROR, BEFORE LIGHT ENTERS THE TELESCOPE, SHOULD BE USED WITH A TELESCOPE.
On Monday morning May 9th the inner planet Mercury will pass between the Earth and the Sun. Mercury will transit across the surface of the Sun from our view from Earth. A properly filter telescope to block out 99.99% of the Sun's brightness and other harmful wavelengths of light, is need to view Mercury against the Sun's disk. Mercury is too small to be seen "Solar Eclipse" glasses. Hopefully print and Internet news outlets will carry news of the event and more importantly warning about viewing te Sun with telescopes.
Start of Transit 7:11 am
Mid transit 10:57 am Sun altitude in the sky is 56 degrees
End of Transit 2:42 pm
Mars is on it way to opposition to the earth this month. In a telescope view, with Mars south pole at the top, the north pole will be tilted Earthward. Opposition date is May 22nd, date of closest approach to the Earth is May 30th At which time the planet will be 18.61 arc seconds in size, that 3.41 arc second larger than the 2013 opposition. The Northern hemisphere of Mar will transition from Spring to Summer. Mars will be easy to find at the planet brightness will reach -2.0 magnitude. Mars will be low on the southern horizon, located it in the southern constellation of Scorpius and near bright red-orange star Antares
On June 3rd Saturn is at Opposition.
The Greatest Western Elongation of Mercury on June 5th is not very favorable for finding the planet close to horizon at sunrise.
The crescent Moon will be a good guide to locating Mercury on the morning of June 3rd. Look less than 2 degrees above the Moon to spot the 0.7 magnitude planet. The Sun is not far from rising so look low on the horizon right of sunrise point.
The three outer solar system planets dominate the evening sky in June. Jupiter, past the meridian is high is the southwest sky. Still getting most of the attention is Mars, which is still well placed for viewing with a telescope after opposition last month. Following Mars is Saturn in the southeast sky, occupying the place in the sky where Mars travel back in April of this year.
In the warm summer evening skies the moon was absent from the sky during the 4th of July celebration. Now on the evening of the 8th a fat crescent Moon is lower right of -1.9 magnitude Jupiter. Jupiter will be exiting the night sky soon enough. On the next evening the moon can be found to the upper left of Jupiter.
The other large gas planet Saturn, can be seen nearly due south in July, dim in brightness by the -1.2 magnitude planet Mars some 17 degrees right of Saturn. Three degrees south of Saturn is the reddish-orange star Anatres, whose color is the rival of brighter Mars. The fat gibbous Moon will join this fine grouping of two bright planets and Antares on the evening July 14 and July 15.
Venus (-4.3 magnitude) and Mercury (-1 magnitude) are very close to each other, (30 minutes of arc or the size of the full moon in the sky) at sunset on July 16, extremely difficult or near impossible to see as they set some 45 minutes after the Sun and only 11 degrees from the Sun..
Three planets and the Moon are in the bright twilight sky at sunset on August 4th. A magnitude -3.9 Venus is close to the horizon and is only 16 degrees from the setting Sun; a near impossible sight. Higher up in the eastern sky from sunset is dimmer Jupiter, also difficult to view. Between Jupiter and Venus is a very thin 2-day-old crescent Moon, which sets 30 minutes after the Sun.
If one is able to locate the crescent Moon in the bright sunset sky, then it would be possible to see the 0.0 magnitude planet Mercury only 1.5 degrees to right side of the Moon.
This is an example of extremely difficult viewing event, with the use of an GOTO operated telescope it would be possible to find the Moon. I would NOT suggest a search for Venus with the Sun in the sky.
One day after the 1st quarter the Moon, planets Mars, now at -0.6 magnitude, and Saturn (0,4 mag.) with the star Antares (1.0 mag.) form a 7 degree square or baseball diamond shape pattern in the southwest sky on August 11th. What a nice sight to see while watching for some early meteors from the Persied meteor shower.
The planets Jupiter, Mercury and Venus are still in the low western sky at sunset and still a challenge to find in the bright sky. Mercury attains greatest eastern elongation on the 16th of August, in this poor viewing conditions.
In the twilight sky of September 8th, located the waxing Moon in the low in southwestern sky. With binoculars you may be able to find the planet Saturn some 3 degrees south of the Moon. It may take a while to locate this planet in the bright twilight. Easy to see is Mars some 9 degrees to the lower left of the Moon, rounding out a nice triangle pairing in the southwest sky.
The next evening on the 9th of September the First Quarter Moon is closer to Mars, some 9 degrees below the Moon, forming a wider triangle pattern in the southwestern sky.
Mercury, at -0.9 magnitude, is at it's Greatest West Elongation from the Sun in the morning sky on Sept 28th. Look 30 minutes before sunrise low on the eastern horizon. Using the thin crescent Moon, or nearby star Regulus, scan towards the sunrise point in the twilight sky to located Mercury.
In the evening sky starting on Oct 5th the Moon will move past the planets Saturn and Mars, now evenly matched in brightness. The moon will start as a thin crescent phase and end the paring up o the 8th at First Quarter phase.
By the end of the month, look for the bright planet Venus (-4.4 mag.) at sunset. It will be in the same area of the sky as Saturn and only 3 degrees below the ringed planet.
A better chance to see Saturn and Venus together is by using the crescent Moon at sunset on November 2nd. Saturn will be 3 degrees below the Moon on the 2nd, with brighter Venus some 5 degrees left of Saturn. The next evening the Moon will have traveled higher and Venus will be some 9 degrees lower right of the Moon. Should be a nice sight to see in the west at sunset.
The Moon will be above and 7 degrees right of Mars on November 5th, then 7 degrees left of Mars on November 6th.
In the morning sky a waning crescent the Moon will be 7 degrees above bright Jupiter (-1.2 mag). Then again the waning crescent Moon will be below and left of the planet Jupiter.
With winter weather, now the planet Venus can be seen low in the southwest sky one hour after sunset. The crescent Moon will be 7 degrees above the bright -4.2 magnitude Venus in dark winter sky.
Higher up on the southwestern horizon is Jupiter at 0.7 magnitude. The Moon is 6 degrees lower right of Jupiter on the evening of December 4th, and then 6 degrees upper left of Jupiter on December 5th.