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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers
    Planets visible to the naked eye

    From July 12 to 26, 2021

    Mercury is visible in the morning sky until the third week of July. Look for the tiny planet low in the east-northeast during dawn, 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. The gap between Mercury and the Sun is decreasing from day to day, and even though the planet is becoming brighter near the end of this observing window, we lose sight of it after July 22 or 23 because it’s just too low.

    Venus is the bright Evening Star that shines low in the west, 20 minutes after sunset; Venus itself sets about 90 minutes after the Sun. Venus overtakes much fainter Mars on July 12 and 13, with the two planets just ½ degree apart. On the evening of July 12, the thin crescent moon shines 7 degrees to the upper left of Venus and Mars. Venus then approaches Regulus and passes just one degree above the star on the evening of July 21.

    Mars is receding from Earth, and it’s becoming harder to see as the Sun catches up to it. The Red Planet appears at dusk less than 10 degrees high in the west, and sinks in the west-northwest around 10:00 p.m. On the evenings of July 12 and 13, Mars is just ½ degree from bright Venus. On the evening of July 12, the thin crescent moon shines 7 degrees to the upper left of Venus and Mars. Mars then approaches Regulus and passes just ½ degree above the star on the evening of July 29.

    Jupiter is visible from late evening until dawn: The Giant Planet rises in the east-southeast before 11 p.m. Around 3 a.m., it shines brightly some 32 degrees high in the south. During the night of July 25 to 26, the waning gibbous Moon lies less than 5 degrees below Jupiter.

    Saturn is visible from mid-evening until dawn. The Ringed Planet rises in the east-southeast before 10 p.m. and culminates around 2 a.m., 26 degrees high in the south and some 20 degrees to the right of very bright Jupiter. During the night of July 23 to 24, the full Moon lies 8 degrees to the lower right of Saturn. On the following night, the waning gibbous Moon will have moved to the lower left of the Ringed Planet.

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