It currently pays to be an early riser if you wish to view the planets, for it’s all happening at dawn in the skies of Western Europe. Find innermost planet Mercury, see a near miss of Mars and Jupiter on 7 January, then a fabulous binocular conjunction of the waning crescent Moon, the Red planet and Jupiter on 11 January!
Observers in the UK with clear skies on the night of 30—31 December 2017 can see the 12-day-old waxing gibbous Moon glide through the Hyades cluster in Taurus, occulting a number of naked-eye stars along the way, culminating in the disappearance and reappearance of first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the small hours of New Year’s Eve.
Many will be looking skyward to see terrestrial pyrotechnics this Bonfire Night, but if you own a small telescope and can escape the light pollution, you can see the waning gibbous Moon hide three naked-eye stars in Taurus on the night of 5—6 November, culminating in first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the small hours of Monday morning.
Observers in the British Isles and Western Europe should look low to the east about an hour before sunrise on Wednesday, 18 October to see the slim crescent of a very old Moon close to the brightest planet, Venus. Mars is also nearby for the keen-eyed among you, but don’t leave it too late or the growing twilight will drown out the Red Planet.
A waxing crescent Moon hanging low above the horizon in evening twilight is always a pleasant sight to behold, but observers in the UK watching the 4-day-old Moon through a telescope around 40 minutes after sunset on Sunday, 24 September have an additional treat in store in the form of an occultation of naked-eye star gamma (γ) Librae.
Observers in the UK and Western Europe should find an observing location offering an unobscured eastern horizon an hour before sunrise on Sunday, 10 September to see innermost planet Mercury just 0.6 degrees from Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. Conspicuous planet Venus is your convenient celestial guide to finding Regulus, Mercury and Mars.
The serene beauty of the International Space Station sailing silently overhead needs nothing more than the naked eye to appreciate. But when the dazzling ISS is also in conjunction with a pair of prominent Solar System bodies — such at the Moon and Saturn on the night of 2 August 2017 in the UK — you may wish to grab your binoculars and look low in the south-southwest just before 11:20pm BST.