April Moon & Planet data for 2018


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during April. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

April 1 Mercury inferior conjunction
April 2 Mars 1.3 degrees south of Saturn
April 3 Jupiter 3.7 degrees south of the Moon
April 7 Saturn 1.9 degrees south of the Moon
April 7 Moon southern most declination (-20.3 degrees)
April 7 Mars 3.1 degrees south of the Moon
April 8 Moon at apogee
April 8 Moon last quarter
April 8 Pluto 1.5 degrees south of the Moon
April 13 Neptune 1.8 degrees north of the Moon
April 14 Mercury stationary
April 14 Mercury 3.6 degrees north of the Moon
April 16 Moon new
April 16 Uranus 4.3 degrees north of the Moon
April 17 Venus 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
April 18 Saturn stationary
April 18 Uranus at conjunction
April 19 Aldebaran 1.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
April 20 Moon at perigee
April 21 Moon northern most declination (20.4 degrees)
April 22 Moon first quarter
April 23 Pluto stationary
April 24 Regulus 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
April 26 Mars 1.4 degrees south of Pluto
April 29 Mercury greatest elong W(27)
April 30 Moon full
April 30 Jupiter 3.6 degrees south of the Moon
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth. If only one object is mentioned the Sun is generally the other object.
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • inferior conjunction: Conjunction where a solar system object is between the Earth and the Sun
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

Eclipses in 2018

There are five eclipses in 2018, three partial eclipses of the Sun and two total eclipses of the moon. In 2018 it is the Lunar eclipses that are visually interesting, in contrast to 2016 and 2017. On the other hand the Solar eclipses are partial, with only a small fraction of the Sun’s disk obscured, so presenting little to see. Also the areas from which they are visible are largely the polar regions although the final eclipse of the year is visible from much of China.

Viewing Eclipses of the Sun. Caution needed.

Whenever the Sun is to be observed safe viewing methods must be used. Any attempt to view the Sun directly could result in instant blindness.

The safest way is to project the image of the Sun onto a suitable screen. Alternatively a suitable, specially designed, Solar filter may be placed in front of the telescope.

It is not safe to use a filter at the eyepiece as the focussed heat from the Sun could shatter it. If unsure of safe methods consult your local astronomical society about suitable ways of observing Solar events.

Total Eclipse of the Moon 2018 January 31/February 1

In contrast to the partial Solar eclipses, both the Lunar eclipses for 2018 are total. The first is on the night of January 31/ February 1. It is entirely visible from New Zealand and most of Australia. With the maximum eclipse at 2.30 am New Zealand is excellently placed for viewing, although, since it is during the summer, the moon will not be very high. The total eclipse lasts for just over 75 minutes with some part of the moon being in full shadow for over three hours.

The moon starts to enter the penumbra of the Earth’s shadow just before midnight NZDT (10:50:50 UTC) January 31. There will be little change in the moon’s appearance until it starts to enter the umbra about an hour later, by then February 1 for NZ. By that time the moon will have risen for all of Australia. The total eclipse with the entire moon in the Earth’s shadow, will start another hour later. Mid eclipse is at 2.30 am NZDT, (13:29:51 UTC).

Apart from New Zealand and Australia, the total eclipse is also visible from eastern Siberia, Japan, China and other southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and most Pacific Islands. The start of the eclipse is visible from most of North America but the moon sets before the end of totality for much of the continent, the exception being Alaska and the western seaboard.

The diagrams show the hemisphere of the Earth from which each stage of the eclipse is visible.

Total Eclipse of the Moon 2018 July 27/28

This eclipse is particularly favourable for countries bordering the Indian Ocean. New Zealand sees its start as the moon moves into the penumbra and begins to enter the umbra. But totality starts about the time in NZ that the moon sets and the Sun rises. Most of the total part of the eclipse is visible from eastern Australia, all of it from Western Australia. Further north almost all of Asia gets a view as does Africa.

The path of the moon through the Earth’s shadow is more nearly central than for the first eclipse of 2018. Consequently the duration of totality is greater at nearly an hour and three quarters.

Solar eclipses of 2018

The solar eclipses of 2018 are partial and of little interest to observers in Australia and New Zealand.

Partial eclipse of 2018 February 15

The first partial solar eclipse on 2018 February 15 is over the Southern Ocean and most of Antarctica. No part is visible from New Zealand nor Australia. The centre path of the eclipse, nominally annular, misses the Earth altogether.

Partial eclipse of 2018 July 13

The second partial, July 13, is a very paltry affair. Only the northern edge of the eclipse briefly touches the Earth, covering a small area mostly south of Australia and New Zealand. For Australia it does include the southern half of Victoria and the extreme south of Southern Australia southwards from Adelaide. Tasmania is inside the eclipse path. Stewart Island is also just inside the eclipse. The edge of the eclipse lies just north of the Island. The edge of the eclipse also clips the extreme southwest of the South Island.

The percentages of the Sun’s diameter obscured are very small. Adelaide is on the edge of the path, only 0.1% of the Sun being covered. Melbourne “sees” a little more, 2.3% of the sun being obscured. Hobart is deeper into the eclipse with 9.5% coverage. From South Cape on Stewart Island 1.4% of the Sun’s diameter will be hidden, an amount decreasing further north on the Island to zero at the most northerly point.

Partial eclipse of 2018 August 11

The third partial solar eclipse occurs in the northern hemisphere, mostly in the Arctic. It includes Greenland, Iceland, the extreme north of Scotland, most of Scandinavia, north and northeast Russia. Much of China, Mongolia and Siberia will see something of the eclipse. From Beijing a maximum of just over one-third of the Sun will be covered while from Okhotsk in northeast Siberia a maximum of two-thirds will be obscured as the Sun sets.

The path of totality misses the Earth completely.

More information on eclipses can be obtained at the NASA eclipse pages: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Diagrams, maps and the tables showing times of phases of lunar eclipses have been prepared using David Herald's Occult 4 program as have the diagrams showing regions of visibility of the Solar eclipses.

The Evening Sky in January 2018

Download a PDF containing this chart, additional charts for specific areas of the sky and descriptions of interesting objects visible at this time of year.

The Evening Sky in January 2018

Bright stars appear in the eastern half of the evening sky in January. Sirius is the brightest. Left of Sirius are bluish Rigel and orange Betelgeuse, the brightest stars in Orion the hunter. Between them, but fainter, is a line of three stars making Orion's belt. To southern hemisphere star watchers, Orion's belt makes the bottom of 'The Pot' or 'The Saucepan'. A faint line of stars above and right of the belt is the pot's handle or Orion's sword. The sword has a glowing cloud at its centre: the Orion Nebula. There are no bright planets in the evening sky except at the end of the month when Venus might be seen setting 20 minutes after the sun.

Left of Orion is the V-shaped pattern of stars making the face of Taurus the Bull. The V-shaped group is called the Hyades cluster. It is 150 light years away. Orange Aldebaran, making one eye of the bull, is not a member of the cluster but on the line of sight, half the cluster's distance.

Left again, toward the north and lower, is the Pleiades/Matariki/Seven Sisters/ Subaru star cluster. Pretty to the eye and impressive in binoculars, it is 440 light years* from us. From northern NZ the bright star Capella is on the north skyline. It is 90,000 times brighter than the sun and 3300 light years away.

Low in the south are Crux, the Southern Cross, and Beta and Alpha Centauri, often called 'The Pointers'. Alpha Centauri is the closest naked-eye star, 4.3 light years away. Beta Centauri, like most of the stars in Crux, is a blue-giant star hundreds of light years away. Canopus is also very luminous and distant: 13 000 times brighter than the sun and 300 light years away.

The Milky Way is in the eastern sky, brightest in the southeast toward Crux. It can be traced towards the north but becomes faint below Orion. The Milky Way is our edgewise view of the Galaxy, the pancake of billions of stars of which the sun is just one. Binoculars show many star clusters and a few glowing gas clouds in the Milky Way, particularly in the Carina region. The Milky Way is faint left, or north, of Orion because we are looking toward its thin outer edge. The centre region of the Galaxy, in Sagittarius, is hidden by the sun at this time of year.

The Clouds of Magellan, LMC and SMC, are high in the southern sky and easily seen by eye on a dark moonless night. They are two small galaxies about 160 000 and 200 000 light years away.

A total eclipse of the Moon begins on the 31st just before midnight NZDT but isn't immediately obvious. The Moon will be moving through the outer part of Earth's shadow till 12:48 a.m. on February 1, when it begins to move into the darker part. By 1:51 it will be totally in the dark central part of the shadow, the umbra. It should be darkest around 2:30. It begins to exit the umbra at 3:08 and is fully out of it by 4:11. It leaves the outer part of the shadow, the penumbra, at 5:08.

All the bright planets are in the morning sky except Venus which is behind the Sun most of the month. At the beginning of the month golden Jupiter rises after 2:30 and is the brightest 'star' in the morning sky. Above and left of it, and much fainter, is reddish Mars. Jupiter and the background stars rise earlier each morning but Mars moves more slowly. This causes Jupiter to overtake Mars, the two will be close around the 7th. Their apparent closeness is a line-of-sight effect: Mars is 285 million km from us and Jupiter is 880 million km away.

Mercury is bright in the morning sky for most of the month. In early January it is rising 90 minutes before the Sun, toward the southeast. Saturn rises slowly out of the dawn twilight in the first fortnight. On the 14th it is beside Mercury and the fainter of the two. At that date Mercury is 182 million km away and Saturn 1640 million from us. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn continue to rise earlier each day as we catch up on them. Mercury, much faster than us, slips lower in the dawn as it moves to the far side of the Sun.

*A light year is the distance that light travels in one year: nearly 10 million million km or 1013 km. Sunlight takes eight minutes to get here; moonlight about one second. Sunlight reaches Neptune, the outermost major planet, in four hours. It takes sunlight four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

March Moon & Planet data for 2018


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during March. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

March 1 Regulus 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
March 2 Moon full
March 4 Neptune at conjunction
March 4 Mercury 1.1 degrees north of Venus
March 7 Jupiter 3.9 degrees south of the Moon
March 9 Jupiter stationary
March 9 Moon last quarter
March 10 Mars 3.8 degrees south of the Moon
March 11 Saturn 2.2 degrees south of the Moon
March 11 Moon southern most declination (-20.1 degrees)
March 11 Moon at apogee
March 12 Pluto 1.7 degrees south of the Moon
March 15 Mercury greatest elong E(18)
March 16 Neptune 1.7 degrees north of the Moon
March 17 Moon new
March 18 Venus 3.5 degrees north of the Moon
March 19 Uranus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
March 19 Mercury 3.8 degrees north of Venus
March 20 Equinox
March 22 Mercury stationary
March 22 Aldebaran 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
March 24 Moon first quarter
March 25 Moon northern most declination (20.2 degrees)
March 26 Moon at perigee
March 28 Regulus 1.0 degrees south of the Moon Occn
March 29 Venus 0.1 degrees south of Uranus
March 31 Moon full
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth. If only one object is mentioned the Sun is generally the other object.
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth

The Solar System In December 2017

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise stated. Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The southern summer solstice is on December 22 with the Sun appearing furthest south at 5.28 am, about 12 minutes before sunrise at Wellington.

 

             December  1  NZDT          December 31  NZDT
      SUN:  rise 5.40am, set 8.39pm    rise 5.47am, set 8.59pm
Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening

Civil:    start 5.10am, end 9.10pm   start 5.17am, end 9.31pm

Nautical: start 4.28am, end 9.52pm   start 4.34am, end10.14pm

Astro:    start 3.40am, end10.41pm   start 3.42am, end11.05pm

 

December Phases of the Moon (times NZDT, as shown by GUIDE)

  Full moon:     December  4 at  4.47am (Dec  3, 15:47 UT)
  Last quarter   December 10 at  8.51pm (07:51 UT)
  New moon:      December 18 at  7.30pm (16:30 UT)
  First quarter: December 26 at 10.20pm (09:20 UT)

The Planets in December 2018

Of the five naked eye planets only Mars and Jupiter will be far enough from the Sun for viewing and they are in the morning sky. Mars will be the better placed, especially early in the month.

Mercury, Venus and Saturn are all close to the Sun and at best make difficult objects. Mercury and Saturn are in the early evening sky at the beginning of December but reach conjunction during the month.

Mars starts December in Virgo rising more than two hours before the Sun. On the 1st it will be 3° below Spica, the planet being the fainter object at magnitude 1.7 compared to Spica's 1.1. On the 21st Mars will cross into Libra. By the 31st it will rise 3 hours before the Sun

During December Mars will be catching up with Jupiter, they are 16° apart on the 1st but only 3° apart on the 31st.

Jupiter is in Libra all month. It rises just over 80 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. This is close to the start of nautical twilight so Jupiter will not be an easy object low in the twilit sky. By the end of December Jupiter rises more than 3 hours before the Sun, only 9 minutes after Mars. The two planets will be more than 20° up an hour before sunrise, Jupiter more than 3 magnitudes brighter than Mars.

The crescent moon will be some 5° below Mars on the morning of the 14th and a similar distance from Jupiter the following morning, also Vesta will be less than a degree to the right of the moon.

Mercury starts the month as an evening object setting nearly 2 hours after the Sun. 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury at magnitude 0.0 will be 8° above the horizon towards the west-south-west. On the 3rd of December, the planet is stationary, after which it starts moving to the west towards the Sun which itself will be moving to the east. Their separation will decrease rapidly over the next few days until Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 13th. At conjunction Mercury will pass 1.5° north of the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury will be a morning object. By the end of the month it will rise 85 minutes before the Sun, so will be a very low object a little to the south of east as the sky brightens.

Saturn will also finally disappear from the evening sky during December. On the 1st it will be nearly 3° to the lower right of Mercury, making Saturn even more difficult to see. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 22nd. After conjunction it too becomes a morning object but will be too low for easy observation rising only half an hour before the Sun on the 31st.

Venus is close to the Sun all month. It rises 28 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. This reduces to only 11 minutes earlier on the 31st.

Outer Planets

Uranus is in Pisces during December. It is well placed in the evening sky once it is dark. It sets about 1.45 am at the end of December.

Neptune is also an evening object setting about 100 minutes before Uranus. So at the end of December it sets just after midnight. The planet is an Aquarius at magnitude 7.9.

Pluto, magnitude 14.5, remains in Sagittarius. By the end of December it sets only have an hour after the Sun.

Brightest Minor Planets

(1) Ceres is a morning object in Leo, brightening from magnitude 8.1 to 7.5 during the month.

(2) Pallas is in Fornax during December. It dims a little from magnitude 8.4 to 8.7 during the month.

(4) Vesta is in Libra during December quite close to Jupiter. At their closest on December 11, Vesta will be about 4° from the gas giant. Vesta at magnitude 8 will rise two and a half hours before the Sun on the 31st.

(7) Iris dims from magnitude 7.8 to 8.6 during December. The asteroid is an evening object in Aries.

(8) Flora is a morning object brightening from magnitude 9.1 to 8.3 during December. It is in Gemini two days short of opposition on the 31st.

(20) Massalia starts December in Orion at magnitude 9.0. It crosses into Taurus on the 11th, reaches opposition on the 17th with a magnitude 8.4 and fades to 8.9 by the end of the month. It is in the sky most of the night.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Evening Sky in December 2017

Download a PDF containing this chart, additional charts for specific areas of the sky and descriptions of interesting objects visible at this time of year.

The Evening Sky in December 2017

The brightest stars are in the east and south. Sirius, the brightest of all the stars, is due east at dusk, often twinkling like a diamond. Left of it is the bright constellation of Orion. The line of three stars makes Orion's belt in the classical constellation. To southern hemisphere skywatchers they make the bottom of 'The Pot'. The faint line of stars above the bright three is the Pot's handle or Orion's sword. At its centre is the Orion Nebula, a glowing gas cloud nicely seen in binoculars. Rigel, directly above the line of three stars, is a hot blue-giant star 770 light years* away. Orange Betelgeuse, below the line of three, is a cooler red-giant star 430 light years away.

Mercury and Saturn (not on the chart) are low in the southwest twilight at the beginning of the month, right of the Scorpion's tail, setting 80 minutes after the Sun. Mercury is above Saturn and slightly brighter at first, but fades and sinks toward Saturn. The two appear close together on the 7th. After that Mercury quickly disappears into the twilight with Saturn slowly following.

Left of Orion is a triangular group making the upside down face of Taurus the bull. Orange Aldebaran, at one tip of the V shape, is one eye of Taurus. The stars on and around the V, except for Aldebaran, are the Hyades cluster. It is 150 light years away. Aldebaran is not a member of the cluster. It just happens to be on the line-of-sight at about half the cluster's distance. Further left is the Pleiades/Matariki/Subaru cluster, a tight grouping of six naked-eye stars impressive in binoculars. It is 440 light years away.

Canopus, the second brightest star, is high in the southeast. Low in the south are the Pointers, Beta and Alpha Centauri, and Crux the Southern Cross upside down at this time of the year. In some Maori star lore the bright southern Milky Way makes the canoe of Maui with Crux being the canoe's anchor hanging off the side. In this picture the Scorpion's tail, just setting, can be the canoe's prow and the Clouds of Magellan are the sails.

The Milky Way is wrapped around the horizon. The broadest part is in Sagittarius low in the west at dusk. It narrows toward Crux in the south and becomes faint in the east below Orion. The Milky Way is our edgewise view of the galaxy, the pancake of billions of stars of which the sun is just one. The thick hub or central bulge of the galaxy, 30 000 light years away, is in Sagittarius. The nearby outer edge is the faint part of the Milky Way below Orion. A scan along the Milky Way with binoculars finds many clusters of stars and a few glowing gas clouds.

The Clouds of Magellan, LMC and SMC, high in the southern sky, are two small galaxies about 160 000 and 200 000 light years away, respectively. They are easily seen by eye on a dark moonless night. The larger cloud is about 1/20th the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, the smaller cloud 1/30th but that is still many billions of stars in each.

Very low in the north is the Andromeda Galaxy seen in binoculars in a dark sky as a spindle of light. It is a bit bigger than our Milky Way galaxy and nearly three million light years away.

Mars, Jupiter and later Mercury appear in the eastern dawn sky. On the 1st reddish Mars rises due east after 3:30, appearing below the blue-white star Spica. Golden Jupiter is the brightest 'star' in the morning sky, rising around 4:30. By mid-month Spica, Mars and Jupiter appear equally spaced along a diagonal line. By the 31st Jupiter is low in the east at 3 a.m. with Mars, much fainter, above and left of it. Mercury begins a rapid ascent of the dawn sky in the last third of December after passing between us and Sun. By the 23rd it will be rising an hour before the Sun, appearing directly below orange Antares, a position it holds till the end of the month.

*A light year (l.y.)is the distance that light travels in one year: nearly 10 million million km. Sunlight takes eight minutes to get here; moonlight about one second. Sunlight reaches Neptune, the outermost major planet, in four hours. It takes sunlight four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

February Moon & Planet data for 2018


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during February. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

February 1 Regulus 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 7 Moon last quarter
February 7 Jupiter 4.1 degrees south of the Moon
February 9 Mars 4.3 degrees south of the Moon
February 11 Moon at apogee
February 11 Saturn 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
February 11 Mars 5.1 degrees north of Antares
February 11 Moon southern most declination (-20.0 degrees)
February 12 Pluto 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
February 15 Mercury 1.0 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 15 Moon new Eclipse
February 16 Venus 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
February 17 Neptune 1.6 degrees north of the Moon
February 17 Mercury superior conjunction
February 20 Uranus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
February 21 Venus 0.5 degrees south of Neptune
February 23 Moon first quarter
February 23 Aldebaran 0.7 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 25 Mercury 0.4 degrees south of Neptune
February 25 Moon northern most declination (20.1 degrees)
February 27 Moon at perigee
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

The Solar System In November 2017

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight Times in November

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

                    November  1  NZDT               November 31  NZST
       SUN: rise:   6.05am,  set:  8.04pm    rise:   5.40am,  set:  8.38pm
  Twilights     morning       evening            morning       evening
  Civil:    starts: 5.38am,  ends: 8.32pm    starts: 5.10am,  ends: 9.09pm
  Nautical: starts: 5.02am,  ends: 9.08pm    starts: 4.29am,  ends: 9.51pm
  Astro:    starts: 4.23am,  ends: 9.47pm    starts: 3.41am,  ends:10.39pm

November Phases of the Moon (times NZST, as shown by GUIDE)

          Full moon:     November  4 at  6.23 pm (05:23 UT)
  Last quarter   November 11 at  9.37 am (Nov 10, 20:37 UT)
  New moon:      November 19 at 12.42 am (Nov 18, 11:42 UT)
  First quarter: November 27 at  6.03 am (Nov 26, 17:03 UT)

The Planets in November 2017

Two planets are visible in the evening sky, Mercury and Saturn. Mercury sets over two hours before Saturn on the 1st, but some 15 minutes later than Saturn on the 30th.

The other three naked eye planets are morning objects. Venus rises about 30 minutes before the Sun all month, Mars increases its distance from the Sun so rising 2 hours before the Sun at the end of November. Jupiter will be too close to the Sun to see at the beginning of the month, but should become briefly visible very low about 50 minutes before sunrise by the end of the month

Evening Sky

Mercury is an early evening object but will be very low when the sky is dark enough to see the planet. On the 1st , 45 minutes after sunset, the planet at magnitude -0.4 will be 5°above the horizon. At the end of November, 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be a little higher, 8.5° and slightly fainter, magnitude -0.1.

On the last few days of November Mercury will be quite close to Saturn, the latter being some 3° to the lower right of Mercury. Earlier in the month on the evening of the 13th the planet will be just over 2°to the right of Antares. Earlier still in November the planet will be less than 2 arc minutes from the magnitude star delta Scorpii on the morning of November 8, in daylight for NZ.

Saturn is an early evening object during November. It sets just over 3 and a half hours after the Sun on the first, an interval decreasing to 86 minutes by the 30th. The planet stars November in Ophiuchus but moves on into Sagittarius mid month.

The crescent moon will be some 4.5° to the right of Saturn as seen soon after sunset on the 21st.

Morning Sky

Venus is a nominal morning object, but it rises only about half an hour before the Sun all month. This will make it a difficult object despite its brightness, magnitude -3.9. Look for the planet low to the east shortly before sunrise. During the month Venus passes Jupiter, the two are less than half a degree apart on the morning of November 14. Shortly before sunrise the two will be less than 4° up and a little to the south of east.

Mars rises 75 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and 2 hours before it on the 30th, so is better placed in the morning sky than is Venus. But it is 5 magnitudes fainter. Mars is in Virgo and at the end of the month will be only 3° from Spica, at magnitude 1.1 the brightest star in the constellation. The crescent moon will be some 5° to the left of Mars on the morning of the 15th.

Jupiter is the third of the morning planets. It was at conjunction with the Sun at the end of October, so will be too close to the Sun to see during the first part of November. By the end of the month it will rise 80 minutes before the Sun. 40 minutes before sunrise on the morning of the 30th, Jupiter will be about 6.5° up and a little to the south of east. The planet starts the month in Virgo but crosses into Libra mid month.

Outer Planets

Uranus is in Pisces during November. Having been at opposition during October, it will be well paced in the evening sky once it is dark. The planet rises 80 minutes before sunset on the 1st increasing to almost 4 hours earlier on the 30th. The almost full moon is a few degrees from Uranus on the 3rd.

Neptune rises some three and three-quarter hours before Uranus, so is also a well placed evening object. By the end of November it sets about 2am. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9. The moon close to first quarter is about 1.5° from Neptune on the 27th.

Pluto, magnitude 14.4, remains in Sagittarius. Like Uranus and Neptune, it is an evening object, although it will set near 11.30 pm by the end of the month. During November, Pluto will be slowly moving away from the 2.9 magnitude star pi Sgr. By the 30th they will be a little over 1.5° apart.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres is a morning object in Cancer. It starts November in Cancer at magnitude 8.5, crosses into Leo on the 21st and ends the month at magnitude 8.1

(2) Pallas is in Fornax during November. It is at its brightest, magnitude 8.2 in the first part of the month, being at opposition on the 8th. When it will by some 254 million km, 1.70 AU, from the Earth. After opposition it will slowly start to fade but still be magnitude 8.4 at the end of November.

(4) Vesta is in Virgo during most of November. It will be a low morning 8th magnitude object. On the 1st it will be 3.5° from Venus but the latter will soon move away from the asteroid. Vesta crosses into Libra on the 29th, by then it will be less than 6° from Jupiter.

(7) Iris, following its opposition at the end of October, will dim a little from magnitude 6.9 to 7.7, the reverse of October. Even so, it remains the brightest asteroid this month. Iris's path in Aries takes it away from Hamal and towards beta Ari, magnitude 2.6. At their closest the two are just over a degree apart on the 8th, with Iris to the right of beta as seen about 10 pm. The asteroid's apparent movement is mostly to the south and it is stationary at the end of the month.

(8) Flora brightens from magnitude 9.7 to 9.1 during November It is a morning object rising about 1 am and spends the month in Gemini. It starts November about 1.5° from eta Gem magnitude 3.6. The two are closest on the morning of the 8th with Flora 0.25° north of eta.

(20) Massalia, like Flora brightens from magnitude 9.8 to 9.0 during November. It also starts the month in Gemini, but further west than Iris, near the border with Orion which Massalia crosses into on the 27th. Massalia starts November about 1.8° to the west of the red star Praepes, eta gem

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Evening Sky in November 2017

Download a PDF containing this chart, additional charts for specific areas of the sky and descriptions of interesting objects visible at this time of year.

The Evening Sky in November 2017

Bright stars rise in the east while bright planets set in the west. Canopus, the second brightest star is well up the southeast sky at dusk. Sirius, the brightest star, rises a little south of east. Less bright stars appear left of Sirius. On the opposite side of the sky Mercury and Saturn are the brightest 'stars' in the west.

At the beginning of the month Saturn is due west at dusk, setting in the southwest around 11:40. Below and left of Saturn is the orange star Antares marking Scorpio's body. The Scorpion's tail and sting make a back-to-front question mark above Antares. Lower and left again is Mercury, setting 70 minutes after the Sun. The stars and Saturn sink lower night-to-night but Mercury moves higher. On the 14th Mercury will be level with Antares with Saturn well above and to the right. On the 24th Mercury and Saturn will be level toward the southeast. Mercury, on the left, is the brighter of the two. They set two hours after the Sun. The Moon will be near Saturn on the 21st.

Sirius, the brightest star, rises in the later evening at the beginning of the month. By month's end it is in the sky at dusk, twinkling like a diamond as the air disperses its light. Left of Sirius is the constellation of Orion, with 'The Pot' at its centre. Rigel, a bluish supergiant star, is directly above the line of three stars; Betelgeuse, a red-giant star, is straight below. Left again is orange Aldebaran. It is at one tip of a triangular group called the Hyades cluster. The Hyades and Aldebaran make the upside down face of Taurus the bull. Still further left is the Pleiades or Matariki star cluster, also called The Seven Sisters, Subaru and many other names. Six stars are visible to the eye; dozens are seen in binoculars. The cluster is 440 light years* away and around 70 million years old.

Sirius is the brightest star both because it is relatively close, nine light years away. Seen up close it would be 23 times brighter than the sun. By contrast, Canopus is 300 light years away and 13 000 times brighter than the sun.

The Milky Way is low in the sky, visible around the horizon from the northwest, through west and south and around into the eastern sky. It is our edgewise view of the galaxy, the pancake of billions of stars of which the Sun is just one. The broadest, brightest part is in Sagittarius in the west to the right of the Scorpion's sting. That's where the thick hub of the galaxy lies, 30 000 light years away, mostly hidden by clouds of smoke-like dust. The thin nearby edge of the Milky Way is below Orion on the opposite side of the sky.

Low in the south are the Pointers, Beta and Alpha Centauri, and Crux the Southern Cross upside down. In some Maori star lore the bright southern Milky Way makes the canoe of Maui with Crux being the canoe's anchor hanging off the side. In this picture the Scorpion's tail can be the canoe's prow and the Clouds of Magellan are the sails. Alpha Centauri is the closest naked-eye star; 4.3 light years away.

The Clouds of Magellan, (LMC and SMC), high in the southern sky, are two small galaxies about 160 000 and 200 000 light years away, respectively. They are easily seen by eye on a dark moonless night. The larger Cloud is about 1/20th the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, the smaller Cloud 1/30th. That's still billions of stars in each. The globular star cluster 47 Tucanae looks like a slightly fuzzy star near the top-right edge of the SMC. It is 'only' 16 000 light years away and merely on the line of sight to the SMC. Globular clusters are spherical clouds of stars many billions of years old.

Very low in the north is the Andromeda Galaxy, easily seen in binoculars in a dark sky and faintly visible to the eye. It appears as a spindle of light. It is similar in shape to our galaxy but is a little bigger and nearly three million light years away.

Mars, Venus and Jupiter are all in the dawn sky so not on the chart. At the beginning of the month all three planets are hidden in the twilight. Venus and Jupiter make a close pair around the 12th but very low in the east, rising only 30 minutes before the Sun. By the end of November Mars rises two hours before the Sun. It is a medium-bright reddish 'star' just below the blue-white star Spica. Jupiter is then rising 80 minutes before the Sun and is the brightest 'star' in the dawn sky.

*A light year (l.y.)is the distance that light travels in one year: nearly 10 million million km. Sunlight takes eight minutes to get here; moonlight about one second. Sunlight reaches Neptune, the outermost major planet, in four hours. It takes sunlight four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

January Moon & Planet data for 2018


The follwing table lists various solar system object events during January. A list of astronomical terms used in may be found after the table.

January 1 Moon at perigee
January 1 Moon northern most declination (20.1 degrees)
January 2 Moon full
January 2 Mercury greatest elong W(23)
January 2 Uranus stationary
January 3 Earth at perihelion
January 5 Regulus 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 7 Mars 0.2 degrees south of Jupiter
January 8 Moon last quarter
January 9 Venus superior conjunction
January 9 Pluto at conjunction
January 9 Venus 1.2 degrees south of Pluto
January 11 Jupiter 4.1 degrees south of the Moon
January 11 Mars 4.4 degrees south of the Moon
January 13 Mercury 0.6 degrees south of Saturn
January 15 Saturn 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
January 15 Moon at apogee
January 15 Mercury 3.3 degrees south of the Moon
January 15 Moon southern most declination (-20.0 degrees)
January 16 Pluto 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
January 17 Moon new
January 17 Venus 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
January 20 Neptune 1.5 degrees north of the Moon
January 24 Uranus 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
January 24 Mercury 1.5 degrees south of Pluto
January 24 Moon first quarter
January 27 Aldebaran 0.7 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 29 Moon northern most declination (20.1 degrees)
January 30 Moon at perigee
January 31 Moon full Eclipse
  • apogee: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • conjunction: Two astronomical objects are 'lined up' (have the same right ascension) when viewed from Earth. If only one object is mentioned the Sun is generally the other object.
  • declination: 'Latitude' for celestial objects. The distance in degress above (north) or below (south) the celestial equator.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • perihelion: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Sun
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object