Planets visible to the naked eye
From February 11 to 25, 2019
Mercury is visible very low in the west-southwest, 20 to 30 minutes after sunset: scan the horizon for a tiny point of light against the colours of sunset. Over the coming days, as the tiny planet gradually pulls away from the glare of the sun, it becomes possible to catch it higher above the horizon, and in a darker sky (45 to 60 minutes after sunset). However, Mercury’s brightness steadily declines during that same timeframe. The best viewing period extends from February 18 to March 1.
Venus, the dazzling Morning Star, appears lower and lower in the south-east at the very end of the night and at dawn. It emerges above the east-southeast horizon 1 ½ hours before sunrise; at dawn, it stands only about 12 degrees high in the southeast. Not quite as brilliant, Jupiter also shines to the upper right of Venus. Much fainter Saturn gradually approaches Venus from the left: on the morning of February 18, barely one degree separates the two planets. Saturn appears to the right of Venus thereafter. On the morning of March 2, the thin lunar crescent lies less than 5 degrees to the right of the Morning Star.
Mars is receding from Earth and still slowly fading. Despite this, the Red Planet remains an easily identifiable object: it appears at dusk about 45 degrees high in the southwest, and sets in the west around 11:00 p.m. Mars moves rapidly with respect to the background stars and constellations: follow its trajectory as it’s heading toward Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster. On the evening of March 11, the waxing crescent moon lays 7 degrees to the left of the Red Planet.
Jupiter is very bright and easy to see in the southeast at the end of the night and at dawn. The Giant Planet rises after 3:30 a.m. and gradually climbs in the sky, reaching some 20 degrees above the south-southeast horizon 30 minutes before sunrise. On the morning of February 27, the waning crescent Moon hangs 2 ½ degrees to the upper right of Jupiter.
Saturn is gradually emerging in the morning sky. You’ll find it very low in the southeast at the first light of dawn, and by the time the horizon takes on more colours (about 45 minutes before sunrise) the ringed planet will also have gained more height. Let dazzling Venus be your guide: before February 18, Saturn gradually approaches Venus from the left. Then, on the morning of February 18, the ringed planet passes barely one degree below the Morning Star. In the following days, the two planets again move apart, with Saturn now to the right of Venus. On the morning of March 1, the crescent moon shines 3 degrees to the right of Saturn.