Jupiter is now less than a month from opposition (7 April), so it’s very much open season for the Solar System’s largest planet. If you’re unsure where to find it, the rising 17-day-old waning gibbous Moon passes just two degrees from Jupiter on the UK evening of 14 March. Virgo’s brightest star, first-magnitude Spica, makes it a great binocular triumvirate.
Dazzling Venus and much fainter Mars have a close encounter with a young Moon in the constellation of Pisces at UK dusk on Tuesday 31 January. The trio form an equilateral triangle small enough to be encompassed by the field of view of a 7x binocular low in the west-southwest for a couple of hours from 7pm GMT.
Thursday 12 January brings not only a full Moon, but also finds brightest planet Venus at its greatest easterly elongation from the Sun. By the time darkness falls in Western Europe and the UK, Venus also lies just 0.4 degrees from outermost planet Neptune, while Mars lies less than the span of a fist at arm’s length to their upper left.
Around 6:30am GMT on Friday 25 November, as nautical twilight starts for the centre of the UK, the 25-day-old waning crescent Moon lies just 2½ degrees away from largest planet Jupiter low in the southeastern sky. This juxtaposition of the two brightest objects in the dawn sky will be nicely framed in a typical binocular.
As dusk fades to dark on the evening of Tuesday 15 November, observers in the British Isles and Western Europe can see the rising 16-day-old Moon less than 2 degrees away from Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. While an occultation of the star occurs around 17h UT for observers in Japan, central Asia and the Middle East, skywatchers in the UK will have to settle for a near miss.
The penultimate 2016 occultation of Neptune by the Moon occurs on 9 November for observers in Western Asia, Eastern Europe and northernmost Africa. In Western Europe, the nine-day-old waxing gibbous Moon merely brushes by the outermost planet, but the pair will be close enough to be seen within the same field of view of a typical binocular from the UK.
UK observers with a clear sky an hour before sunrise on Friday 28 October should look very low in the east-southeast to see the slim crescent of the 27-day-old Moon less than four lunar diameters away from largest planet Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter are also joined by third-magnitude double star gamma (γ) Virginis, commonly known as Porrima.