Observers in the British Isles looking due south close to 6pm GMT on Friday, 7 December will find magnitude +0.1 planet Mars about 30 degress, or a span and a half of an outstretched hand at arm’s length, above the horizon. What you won’t see unless you have binoculars or a small telescope is that magnitude +7.9 outermost planet Neptune lies just one-tenth of a degree from the Red Planet.
Skywatchers in Western Europe looking in the southern sky at dusk on Thursday, 18 October can see the 9-day-old waxing gibbous Moon close to the upper left of Mars, the pair fitting comfortably in the same field of view of typical binoculars. This is also a good night for spotting some prominent martian features telescopically – seeing permitting!
Mars may be almost four weeks past opposition, but it’s still an imposing sight low in the southern sky around local midnight. But if you are in any doubt about identifying the Red Planet, the waxing gibbous Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide late into the UK night of Thursday, 23 August. See both the Moon and the Red Planet in the same field of view of low-power binoculars.