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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers
    Planets visible to the naked eye

    From March 23 to April 6, 2020

    Mercury is visible with difficulty in the morning sky until March 31. Using binoculars, look for Mercury very low in the east-southeast, 30 minutes before sunrise. The brightness of the tiny planet increases gradually during this period of visibility, but it rapidly loses altitude near the end of March. Mercury vanishes in the glow of dawn as April begins.

    Venus is the dazzling Evening Star that shines high in the west from sunset until it sets in the west-northwest after 11:00 p.m. (daylight saving time). During the evening of March 28, the thin crescent moon passes 8 degrees to the left of Venus; the Pleiades star cluster is above them, drawing a nice triangle. On the evening of April 3, Venus passes in front of the Pleiades.

    Mars emerges above the southeast horizon after 4:30 a.m. (daylight saving time). At dawn, the Red Planet stands a dozen degrees high in the south-southeast. Mars moves rapidly with respect to the background stars: after its close conjunction with Jupiter (to its right), the Red Planet is now approaching Saturn (to the lower left). Watch as the gap between them shrinks from day to day: On the morning of March 31, Mars and Saturn are in conjunction, separated by less than a degree. On April 16, at the end of the night and at dawn, the waning crescent Moon hangs less 3 ½ degrees to the lower left of Mars.

    Jupiter is visible in the southeast after 4:00 a.m. (daylight saving time). At dawn, the bright Giant Planet shines about 15 degrees above the horizon. Note the presence of the Red Planet (to its lower left) moving away from Jupiter toward Saturn. On the morning of April 15, the last quarter Moon lies 3 degrees below Saturn and draws a triangle with Jupiter, 6 degrees to the upper right.

    Saturn is visible at dawn, very low in the southeast after 4:30 a.m. (daylight saving time). Look for the Ringed Planet a few degrees to the lower left of bright Jupiter. At dawn, Saturn stands a dozen degrees above the horizon. Note the presence of Mars to its upper right, and watch as the gap between them shrinks from day to day: On the morning of March 31, Mars and Saturn are in conjunction, separated by less than a degree. On the morning of April 15, the last quarter Moon lies 3 degrees below Saturn and draws a triangle with Jupiter, 6 degrees to the upper right.

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