Astronomical SIGHTS Coming to a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated March 13, 2018.

See the HOME page or COMING EVENTS for daily listings.

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for February 2018 - April 2018:

The evening sky is starting to get more interesting with the appearance of Venus and Mercury at the start of March. Two of the gas giants,
Uranus and Neptune are quickly disappearing behind the Sun but the two inner planets make an appearance.

Venus by the start of March becomes the prominent Evening Star in the west as spring approaches. Mercury also makes a quick appearance in March with Greatest Eastern Elongation on March 15. Before then, Mercury and Venus reach minimum separation of about 1° (Mar 3) above the western horizon after sunset. There is also a nice lineup of the crescent Moon and these two planets on March 18. Venus continues to track eastward for the rest of the spring and is a prominent Evening Star in the west and southwest even in the fall. Mercury very quickly tracks back towards the Sun and by the end of March is lost in its glare. By mid-April however, it returns as a Morning Star in the east but this is not a favourable apparition since Mercury does not get much out of the glare for the Sun in its morning appearance.

Jupiter and Mars appear in the east well before sunrise and the two are currently separating with Jupiter hanging around in Libra while Mars slips eastward towards Scorpius and Sagittarius in the centre of the Milky Way. There Saturn is waiting and Mars and Saturn are a scant degree or so apart at the start of April. Both planets dramatically change the appearance of the Teapot with two “extra” stars, that move! This summer will be the time to watch Mars especially but Saturn as well. Mars gets closest to us this summer and largest and brightest in our sky for many years.

Saturn stays above the Teapot of Sagittarius for the next several months and makes for a nice companion to Mars as it brightens this year towards its opposition in August.

Pluto is still rising in Sagittarius in dawn twilight, we will have to wait until the summer for better views.

March - April 2018 Sky Sights

Now to Mar 30, 2018 Venus-Mercury Uranus in West
Venus and Mercury continue to draw our attention to the western sky all March and for a time they appear as double Evening Stars (albeit Mercury is much fainter). Venus at magnitude -3.9 far outshines Mercury at -1.2, as Venus continues climbing higher into the western sky. Mercury is moving faster and reaches its farthest point east of the Sun on March 15 and then starts back sunwards again and is lost in the Sun’s glare by month end.

Venus and Uranus are VERY close on March 28 when Venus glides past the gas giant with only 4 minutes of arc to spare. Yes, 4 minutes! This is half the greatest distance that Callisto gets from Jupiter.That will be a nice sight and with Uranus at 5.9 magnitude, should be visible in binos but get our your scopes for a good look. Chart below shows the path of the two planets from March 12 to 30 with the March 28 appulse highlighted. See also info for March 28 below.

iVenus Uranus Mercury
Diagram from Starry Nigh/Simulation Curriculum

March 18, 2018 Sun: Crescent Moon, Venus, Mercury and Uranus line up

March 18 720pm Cres Ven Merc Uran

Look in the western sky after sunset for a nice alignment of Crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury (L to R) almost equally spaced at 4° separation. Diagram above shows the view at 7:20 pm about half an hour before moonset and 3/4 hour after sunset. The Moon is about 5 degrees above the western horizon and Venus (mag. -3.9) and Mercury (mag 0.4) are about 4° each to the right of the crescent. Uranus is 12 degrees above the group and magnitude 5.9.

March 28, 2018 Wed: Venus and Uranus 4 minutes of separation!

Venus-Uranus 4 min Mar 29

Look again in the western sky after sunset as Venus makes a close pass at Uranus (please, NO jokes!) Look in the west for Venus after sunset and then once it is dark enough about 7:30 pm or so, see if you can spot Uranus at magnitude 5.9. The spacing changes slightly during the night and it is close to 4 minutes about the time the pair are setting in the west. Compared to the close pass to Mercury at the beginning of March, (1 degree) you will be impressed how close Venus and Uranus get. Images always welcome!

April 18, 2018 Wed: Crescent Moon in Hyades, Venus nearing Pleiades

Apr 18 Cres Ven M45

The western sky after sunset is where to look for a nice collection of Crescent Moon, Venus and two clusters. The 3-day old crescent is sitting in the centre of the Hyades Cluster. Aldebaran is about 3 degrees up to the Moon’s left, M45 is about 12 degrees to its right and Venus is about 15 degrees right and down from the crescent, -a nice grouping for a wide angle view. The Moon quickly leaves the scene to the east but Venus in the next week or so tracks between the Hyades and Pleiades from Apr 24 to about Apr 30. The Moon is brightening ( FQ on Apr 22) as Venus crosses the space between the two clusters. However, if you are OK with a crescent Moon in the field, try for some images from Apr 15 or so with Venus lower down and before the crescent Moon appears on the scene.

April 2, 2018 Mon: Saturn and Mars in the Teapot

Mars Saturn Apr 2

Mars has been cruising towards Saturn all spring and it finally passes beneath the ringed planet in the first week of April. Saturn has been hanging around on display in the morning sky and finally Mars’s more rapid motion to the east puts the two in the same 1 degree field of view. Once the Teapot rises around 2 am, the red planet and the ringed planet should be visible. Even closer to Mars than Saturn is M22 the globular cluster in Sagittarius so there is a lot to observe if you get out this morning.

April 26, 2018 Tue: Venus between Hyades and Pleiades

Venus Hyades M45 Apr 26

Venus threads the gap between the Hyades Cluster and M45, the Pleiades Cluster tonight, but the view is nice for several days either side of this evening. The Moon brightens the sky somewhat having reached a whopping 72° from its position in the diagram above.

A summary of the entire 2018 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
ASTRONOMY 2018 Events
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page).