Innermost planet Mercury puts on its best morning display of the year for Northern Hemisphere observers from late November to early December. Skywatchers in the British Isles should find a location offering an unobstructed view of the southeast horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise to get the best views, with the Red Planet and star Spica – the brightest in Virgo – also nearby.
Brilliant planet Venus attains its greatest elongation almost 47° west of the Sun at dawn in the UK on Sunday, 6 January. Find a location that offers you a view down to the southeast horizon around 7am GMT and you may catch a glimpse of Jupiter too. The planetary duo is currently 14 degrees apart, but drawing nearer for a close conjunction on 22 January.
Early risers in the UK with an unobstructed horizon from southeast through south can see the old crescent Moon close to dazzling Venus in Libra then Jupiter in Ophiuchus over three consecutive mornings starting New Year’s Day around 7am GMT. The brightest and largest planets lie little more than the span of an outstretched hand at arm’s length apart at this time.
Jupiter has passed opposition, but the solar system’s largest planet is still putting on a magnificent show in the southern sky at dusk. Backyard telescopes readily reveal its Great Red Spot storm feature and four main moons constantly playing tag. Here’s our full guide to Jovian events visible from the UK in June.
Skywatchers in Western Europe looking at the rising 13-day-old gibbous Moon in the south-southeast at dusk on Sunday, 27 May can also see prime-time Jupiter within the same binocular field of view. But look closer in the vicinity of the solar system’s largest planet and you’ll see an easily resolved double star – alpha Librae.
With the opposition of Jupiter occurring on 9 May, now is the time to ensure that your telescope is clean and collimated (aligned) to deliver the sharpest images of the solar system’s largest planet at its best. We tell you when and how to view Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and a wealth of Galilean moon phenomena throughout May 2018.
Observers in Western Europe looking at the rising full Moon low in the southeast on the night of Monday, 30 April will also see conspicuous planet Jupiter close by, the pair fitting comfortably within the field of view of typical binoculars. Jupiter is close to opposition (9 May) and we show you how to identify its four main moons.
Early risers will already be aware that there’s currently a lot of planetary activity in the morning sky, but at dawn in Western Europe on Monday, 2 April, Mars and Saturn will be just 1¼ degrees apart and seen in the same field of view of telescopes at 30x magnification. The waning Moon is close by on the mornings of 7 & 8 April too.