Astronomical SIGHTS in a SKY NEAR YOU!
CONJUNCTIONS OF PLANETS, THE MOON, LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES, ETC
Graphics c/o Starry Night Education www.starrynighteducation.com.
This page updated March 3, 2019.
See also the HOME page or COMING EVENTS .
The VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.
The Planets for Winter 2018/Spring 2019:
Venus continues as the obvious Morning Star into the spring skies of 2019. The aptly-named Mercury circles the Sun quickly and alternates between morning sky and evening every few months. It is in the western sky in February 2019 and by mid-March returns to dawn skies. Jupiter is also a dawn planet and appears with Venus and Saturn during most of the spring.
Mars is still reasonably bright (magnitude 1.3), noticeably gibbous in a telescope and passes Neptune (Dec 7) and Uranus (Feb 12). It is alone in lower Taurus in March and heading for a 3° pass of the Pleiades in early April. That will be a good photo opportunity! At the end of May it starts to get lost in twilight in the west after sunset.
Saturn passed behind the Sun in early January and now joins the other planers as a morning star. It passes by Venus (1 degree apart) on Feb 18. For March and April it slips closer and closer to the Sun.
Of the gas giants, only Uranus is well up in the south by dark as Neptune is very low on the western horizon at sunset. Neptune is the first to cross over to the morning sky at the start of April.
Dwarf planet, Pluto is in Sagittarius and will not be visible until spring when the Sun leaves the vicinity. Even then, it can be seen only in moonless sky and with larger telescopes. 2019 Finder charts for all planets, dwarf planets and asteroids are found on our CHARTS/FORMS page.
March/April Sky Sights
March 7, 2019: Crescent Moon near Mercury in Evening Sky
The 29-hour waxing crescent Moon passes Mercury in the western sky on March 7 just after sunset. The separation is 3.5° and the Moon and Mercury are about 10 degrees above the horizon at sunset which occurs about 30 minutes before the scene depicted in the diagram below. Moonset is 7:22 pm EST and Mercury sinks below the horizon about 5 minutes later. Uranus and Mars are on the scene as well with Uranus setting at 11 pm or so and Mars 1.5 hours later.
March 28 to April 3: Mars passes Pleiades M45 -minimum separation Mar 31 at 3°
Look west after sunset at month end for an interesting photo opportunity. The 1st magnitude planet Mars slips past the Pleiades M45 over a week or so. Minimum separation is on Mar 31 when the space between the centre of M45 and Mars is 3° 8 min. Sunset in the west is at 7:49 pm DST and Mars sets below the horizon just after midnight so there is plenty of time to view and take images. Binocular views are best as few eyepieces have a 3 degree FoV. Mars is only magnitude 1.4, which is still brighter than any of the Big Dipper stars. The planet is on the other side of the solar system from us at 300 million km and only a tiny 4.7 seconds of arc across. Try to get several images at the same time on successive nights for an interesting composite.
March 29, 2019: Crescent Moon 3° from Saturn
There is planetary action in the dawn sky as well as the waning crescent Moon passes dawn planets over the 4 mornings of Mar 28 to Apr 2. The closest approach is to Saturn on March 29 at 3° from the ringed planet. Diagram below shows the sky at 6:42 am DST about 30 minutes before sunrise. There is an interesting grouping coming Apr 2 (down in the left corner of the diagram) with Venus, Mercury and Neptune but it will be a much more difficult view since it will occur closer to the Sun in brighter sky.
Diagram from Simulation Curriculum
April 2, 2019: Crescent Moon near Venus, Mercury and Neptune
Another fine Moon appearance with Venus, Mercury and Neptune this time, occurs in the SE dawn sky before sunrise on Apr 2. The Moon is 2.7 days before new and shines at magnitude -10 while 4° away lies Venus at magnitude -4. About 8° to the Moon’s left are a close pair of planets, Mercury (magnitude 0.8) and Neptune (magnitude 7.9 and not invisible to the naked eye). The Mercury-Neptune separation of about 30 minutes (a nice FoV for a low power eyepiece) is a minimum tonight and almost as close Apr 3 morning. The Sun rises at 7:03 am DST, 33 minutes after the scene depicted below.
Starry Night Diagram for Apr 2, 2019 about 6:30 am DST
April 10, 2019: Venus and Neptune VERY close!
After Mercury’s close approach to Neptune on Apr 2/3, Venus makes a pass at the gas giant tonight. Look in the dawn sky for Venus (you can’t miss it -it’s the brightest “star” above the eastern horizon about 6:15 am DST). It will rise about 5:50 am DST, an hour ahead of the Sun. Look a quarter degree or so above Venus for a 4th magnitude star Phi Aquarii. If you center your binos or a telescope with a low power eyepiece, you will see the field in the second diagram below showing a 1° FoV circle. Just above Phi Aquarii look for the gas giant Neptune, a pale bluish, 8th magnitude “star”. Separation between Venus and Neptune at this time is about 21 minutes of arc, the smallest it gets this year. Enjoy!
April 16, 2019: Venus and Mercury Appulse!
This morning’s view to the east includes both interior planets (those closer to the Sun than Earth), Venus and Mercury. Venus is magnitude -3.9 and Mercury is a much fainter 0.2 magnitude. The spacing shrinks to a minimum this morning of 4°16’ and occurs mostly as a result of Mercury’s motion rather than that of Venus. Mercury was at maximum elongation on Apr 11 and Venus has sidled over towards it as the faster-moving Mercury slips back towards the Sun. Both planets are around half illuminated by sunlight and look interesting at higher power in a telescope. Only binos will show both in the same field as few eyepieces have a wide enough FoV.
April 23 and Apr 25: FQ Moon near Jupiter and Saturn
The Moon appears near Jupiter (Apr 23) then Saturn (Apr 25). See COMING EVENTS for April for details.
A summary of the entire 2019 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
ASTRONOMY EVENTS 2019
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: www.amazingsky.com (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page). Or here: Amazing Sky Calendar 2019
Meteor shower calendar for 2019 from EarthSky.org is available here: EarthSky Meteor Calendar 2019