September Moon & Planet data for 2013


The Solar System in September 2013

Phases of the Moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      September  5 at 11.36 pm NZST (       11:36 UT)
First quarter: September 13 at  5.08 am NZST (Sep 12,17:08 UT)
Full moon:     September 19 at 11.13 pm NZST (       11:13 UT)
Last quarter   September 27 at  3.55 pm NZST (       03:55 UT)

The Southern spring equinox is on September 23 at 8.45 am (Sep 22, 20:45 UT)

NZ Daylight Time, NZDT, commences this year on Sunday 29 September. NZDT will be 13 hours ahead of UT.

The Planets in September

Mercury is at its evening best in the second part of September with Venus shining brightly to its upper right. The latter passes both Spica and Saturn during the month.

In the morning Jupiter emerges further from the Sun but will still be fairly low as seen from mid southern hemisphere latitudes. Mars remains low in the dawn sky as it only slowly distances itself from the Sun.

Planets in the Evening Sky: Mercury, Venus and Saturn.

MERCURY sets about 30 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of September, making it almost impossible to see despite its -1.1 magnitude. Its visibility increases quite rapidly during September even though the planet gets a little less bright. By the 8th it will be about 3° up 40 minutes after sunset at magnitude -0.6. By mid September its altitude 40 minutes after sunset is 7° at mag -0.3, so now getting fairly easy to see. On the 22nd, altitude 10.5°, mag -0.2 and at the end of the month 17° at -0.1, so by then Mercury will be an easy object to the west as the glow from the setting Sun diminishes. At the end of September, following the start of NZDT it will be after 9.30 pm before Mercury sets.

On the 25th, Mercury will be alongside Spica, the star being to the left of Mercury and less than a degree from the planet. The two will form a fine pair, with the planet over a magnitude brighter.

VENUS will set around 9.30 pm, over 3 hours later than the Sun on the 1st as seen from much of New Zealand. It starts the month 6° directly below Spica. On the 6th the planet will be 1.6° to the right of the star. Two evenings later Spica, Venus, the crescent moon, 15% lit, and Saturn will form an ascending line in the western sky.

Ten evenings later again, on the 18th Saturn will be 3.5° to the right of Venus. The following evening Venus will have moved up a little so that Saturn is a similar distance to the lower right of Venus.

By the end of the month, after the start of NZDT, Venus will not set until about 11.30 pm. By then it will be some 12° above Saturn.

SATURN itself sets almost 5 hours after the Sun on September 1, reducing to about two and three-quarter hours on the 30th. At magnitude 0.7 it is a bright object but almost 5 magnitudes fainter than Venus. It will also be outshone by Mercury.

JUPITER and MARS in the morning sky.

JUPITER moves further into the morning sky during September. On the 1st it will rise some 2 hours and 40 minutes before the Sun. 40 minutes before sunrise it will shine brightly but be fairly low to the north of northeast. On that morning the crescent moon, 20% lit, will be 4° to the upper right of the planet.

The moon joins Jupiter again near the end of September. On the morning of the 28th the 45% lit moon will be 8° to Jupiter upper left. The following morning, now 35% lit, the moon is 6.5° to the upper right of the planet. The increase in the percentage of the moon lit at conjunctions at the beginning and end of September is an indication of the increasing elongation of the planet from the Sun.

By the end of September Jupiter will rise soon after 3.30 am NZDT.

MARS, by contrast does not move much further from the Sun during the month. On the 1st it rises about 90 minutes before the Sun, on the 30th 100 minutes earlier. Its magnitude will be 1.6 throughout September.

The moon passes Mars early in September. On the morning of the 1st the 14% lit moon will be some 7.5° above Mars, the following morning it, now 7% lit, it will be 6° to the right of Mars. The planet will be low, 45 minutes before sunrise only 6° above the horizon to the northeast.

Outer Planets

URANUS rises mid evening at the beginning of September and just after sunset at the end of the month. The planet is in Pisces at magnitude 5.7. It is at opposition early in October. Uranus will be 3.5° to the upper right of the almost full moon near midnight on the 20th.

NEPTUNE transits and so is highest soon after midnight at the beginning of September and 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8. Neptune will be some 7.5° to the upper right of the 95% lit moon on the 17th

Brighter Asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta were at conjunction with the Sun during August. As a result in September they will be rising shortly before the Sun. By the end of the month their elongation from the Sun will still be less than 30°. Both asteroids are in Leo, Ceres at magnitude 8.6 to 8.7, Vesta 8.2 to 8.3.

(2) Pallas is in Monoceros, magnitude 9.1 to 9.0, changing little during the month

(7) Iris is in Aquarius and fades a little during September from magnitude 8.2 to 8.8.

(324) Bamberga is at opposition in Pisces on September 13. It will then be at magnitude 8.1 making it the brightest asteroid for a night or two. With Vesta rather close to the Sun, Bamberga will in fact the brightest easily observable asteroid for much of the month. It starts September at 8.4 and ends the month at 8.5


Events Diary

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

September 4 Regulus 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
September 5 Moon new
September 6 Venus 1.6 degrees north of Spica
Mercury 4.5 degrees north of the Moon
September 8 Spica 0.7 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Venus 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
September 9 Saturn 2.3 degrees north of the Moon
September 12 Moon first quarter
Moon southern most declination (-19.7 degrees)
September 14 Pluto 1.4 degrees south of the Moon
September 15 Moon at perigee
September 17 Neptune 5.3 degrees south of the Moon
September 18 Venus 3.5 degrees south of Saturn
September 19 Moon full
September 20 Pluto stationary
Uranus 3.1 degrees south of the Moon
September 22 Equinox
September 25 Mercury 0.7 degrees north of Spica
Aldebaran 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
September 26 Moon northern most declination (19.6 degrees)
September 27 Moon last quarter
Moon at apogee
September 28 Jupiter 4.8 degrees north of the Moon
  • 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

August Moon & Planet data for 2013


The Solar System In August 2013

Phases Of The Moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      August  7 at  9.51 pm NZST (Aug 6, 21:51 UT)
First quarter: August 14 at 10.56 pm NZST        (10:56 UT)
Full moon:     August 21 at  1.45 pm NZST        (01:45 UT)
Last quarter   August 28 at  9.35 pm NZST        (09:35 UT)

The Planets In August

Saturn remains visible in the evening sky throughout August, it gets lower during the month especially later evening. Venus is visible in the early part of the evening and gets higher during the month.

Mercury, Mars and Jupiter all start August as morning objects. On the 1st, forty minutes before sunrise, they will be very low to the northeast. Jupiter will be highest 8° up and so quite easily visible at magnitude -1.9. By the end of August Mercury will have disappeared, the altitude of Mars, 40 minutes before sunrise, will be almost unchanged, Jupiter will be nearly twice as high.

Planets In The Evening Sky: Saturn and Venus.

VENUS will be the first object to appear in the evening sky, visible at sunset or earlier. On August 1, 30 minutes after sunset it will be about 22° above the horizon.

By that time, as the sky darkens, SATURN will also be visible almost due north well up in the sky with Spica 12° to its left. Later in the evening, as the two swing around to the west the rotation of the sky brings Spica down to the lower left of Saturn. Saturn will set a little before 1am.

At the end of August Venus will be about 30° above the horizon half-an-hour after sunset and set more than 3 hours after the Sun. By the 31st the planet will only be 7° below Spica.

Saturn, on the other hand, will be getting lower, but still higher than Venus, now to the northwest, 14° from Spica, to the star’s upper right. The planet will set about 11 pm, so will be best observed early evening.

The moon moves through this part of the sky fairly early in the month. On the 10th, as a thin crescent 10% lit, it will be 5° above Venus. On the 12th the 27.5% lit moon will be just over 1° below Spica, the two being closest about 9 pm. The following night, the moon now 38% lit is 2.4° to the upper left of Saturn.

Mercury will be a very low evening object by the end of August, but it sets only half an hour after the Sun on the 31st, so is not visible.

JUPITER, MARS and MERCURY in the morning sky.

At the beginning of August the three planets will all be low in the dawn sky. Jupiter will be the highest, about 8° up 45 minutes before sunrise. At the same time Mars, at magnitude 1.6, will be just over 5° up, while Mercury is 3.5° up and a little brighter at magnitude 0. Only Jupiter, magnitude -1.9 is likely to be reasonably easy to see by eye.

On the morning of the 4th the waning moon, a thin crescent 8.5% lit, will be just over 3° above Jupiter.

During the month, Jupiter will gradually get higher, Mars hardly change in height while Mercury will close in on the Sun, so there is little chance of seeing the latter.

On the 24th Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun, 1.36 AU or 203 million km from the Earth and 52 million km beyond the Sun. After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object, but remains too close to the Sun to be visible during the remainder of August.

By the 31st Jupiter will be an easy object in the early dawn sky, 40 minutes before sunrise it will be 15° above the horizon shining brightly to the northeast.

Outer Planets

NEPTUNE is at opposition on August 27, when it will be 29.0 AU, 4334 million km from the Earth and a further 150 million km from the Sun. At opposition its magnitude is 7.8. Neptune is in Aquarius.

URANUS is more than 3 hours behind Neptune, so it will not rise until late evening early in the month and mid evening by the end. Its magnitude is 5.7, the planet being in Pisces.

Brighter Asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are at conjunction with the Sun during August, Vesta on August 5 and Ceres August 16. At opposition Vesta will be 3.47 AU, 519 million km from the Earth and 367 million km from the Sun. From the point of view of the Earth, Vesta will pass 2.5° north of the Sun. Ceres at opposition is slightly further away, 533 million km from Earth and 3883 from the Sun. It passes 7° north of the Sun.

While Ceres and Vesta are too close to the Sun to observe, a number of other asteroids are in binocular reach during August, with two being at opposition.

(2) Pallas is in Monoceros, magnitude 9.1, changing little during the month

(3) Juno Starts the month in Aquarius magnitude 9.0. It soon moves into Aquila where it is at opposition on August 14, still magnitude 9.0. By the end of August it will have dimmed a little to 9.3.

(7) Iris is also in Aquarius, it is at opposition on August 16 at magnitude 7.9, so at that date is the brightest asteroid.

(8) Flora is past opposition, its magnitude dims from 9.0 to 9.6 during the month. It is in Sagittarius where it will occult a number of faint stars.

(324) Bamberga brightens rapidly during the month, starting at magnitude 9.4, it reaches 8.5 by the 31st. The asteroid is in Pisces. Opposition is in September.

Brian Loader


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

August 1 Aldebaran 3.1 degrees south of the Moon
August 2 Moon northern most declination (20.0 degrees)
August 3 Moon at apogee
Jupiter 4.0 degrees north of the Moon
August 4 Mars 5.1 degrees north of the Moon
August 5 Mercury 4.3 degrees north of the Moon
August 6 Moon new
August 8 Regulus 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
August 9 Venus 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
August 12 Spica 0.5 degrees south of the Moon Occn
August 13 Saturn 2.8 degrees north of the Moon
August 14 Moon first quarter
August 16 Moon southern most declination (-19.9 degrees)
August 17 Pluto 1.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Mars 5.8 degrees south of Pollux
August 19 Moon at perigee
August 21 Moon full
Neptune 5.3 degrees south of the Moon
August 23 Mercury 1.3 degrees north of Regulus
August 24 Uranus 3.2 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury superior conjunction
August 27 Neptune at opposition
August 28 Moon last quarter
Aldebaran 2.9 degrees south of the Moon
August 29 Moon northern most declination (19.8 degrees)
August 30 Moon at apogee
August 31 Jupiter 4.4 degrees north of the Moon
  • 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

July Moon & Planet data for 2013


Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      July  8 at  7.14 pm NZST (07:14 UT)
First quarter: July 16 at  3.18 pm NZST (03:18 UT)
Full moon:     July 23 at  6.16 am NZST (Jul 22, 18:16 UT)
Last quarter   July 30 at  5.43 am NZST (Jul 29, 17:43 UT)

The Earth is at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun for the year, on July 6 at 2 am, when the distance will be 1.0167 AU, 152.1 million km.

The planets in July

Saturn is visible all evening throughout July. Venus will gradually get to be more visible to the northwest for a little longer following sunset.

Mercury starts the month as an evening object but difficult to see. Later in the month it will become a morning object, low in the dawn sky and quite close to Jupiter and Mars.

Planets in the evening sky: Saturn, Venus and at first Mercury.

SATURN will remain an easy evening object during July, best viewed early evening, especially later in the month when it will set round about 1 am. The planet will remain in Virgo some 12 degrees to the right of Spica. The two make an obvious pair high to the north in the early part of the evening.

With the north pole of Saturn now tilted towards the Earth at an angle 17°, the rings are readily visible through a small telescope.

The first quarter moon will be about 1 degree from Spica early in the evening of July 16, the following evening the moon will be 4.5 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.

Saturn is stationary on July 4 when its westerly, retrograde motion will come to an end as the faster moving Earth swings away from the outer planet. Saturn will then resume its normal easterly track through the stars, slowly taking it away from Spica.

VENUS will only be visible early evening. It sets two hours after the Sun on the 1st advancing to two and three-quarter hours later on the 31st. Look for the planet soon after sunset to the northwest. On July 1, half an hour after the Sun goes down, the planet will be twelve degrees above the horizon. This will increase to a good twenty degrees by the 31st.

On the 10th of July the 3.4% lit crescent moon will be 9° to the left of Venus and virtually at the same level.

MERCURY will be 13 degrees to the lower left of Venus on July 1 when it will set just over an hour after the Sun. At magnitude 3.1, Mercury will be very difficult to locate in the evening twilight. Over the next few evenings the elongation of Mercury from the Sun will decrease quite rapidly until it is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 10th. After conjunction Mercury will move into the morning sky.

Jupiter, Mars and Mercury in the morning sky.

Jupiter passes Mars towards the end of July when low in the dawn sky. The two are closest on the mornings of July 22 and 23 when the planets will be 49 arc-minutes apart. Mars will then be to the lower left of Jupiter and, at magnitude 1.6, a lot fainter. The previous two mornings the planets will be a degree or more apart with Mars to the left of Jupiter. Their separation will increase again on the 24th and 25th with Mars now almost directly below Jupiter.

Early in July Jupiter will rise a little over 30 minutes before the Sun, making it a difficult object. Mars will rise half an hour or so earlier. By the end of July, Jupiter will rise nearly an hour and three-quarters before the Sun, so it will be easier to see, low to the northeast. Mars will have been left behind, rising about 90 minutes before the Sun.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the 9th when it will pass some 4.5 degrees south of the Sun. It then moves into the morning sky to be below Jupiter and Mars. By the end of July it will rise about an hour and a quarter before the Sun, so will remain low and a difficult object in the dawn sky. Mercury will by then have brightened noticeably, reaching magnitude 0.2 by July 31st when it will be at its greatest elongation, 20° west of the Sun.

In the second half of July all three planets will be in Gemini, so forming a fairly tight group. Mars is in Taurus for the first half of the month, moving into Gemini on the 15th.

At the end of July, three-quarters of an hour before sunrise, Jupiter will be 8° up to the northeast. Mars, much fainter at mag 1.6 will be 4° to the lower right of Jupiter. Mercury will be 7° to the right of Mars, slightly lower and brighter at mag 0.2. The star Betelgeuse in Orion, will be nearly 20° above Jupiter and Procyon will be some 24° to Jupiter’s right. Both stars have a magnitude close to 0.5, so will be only slightly fainter than Mercury.

Outer planets

URANUS will rise at midnight mid July. It will be in Pisces at magnitude 5.8.

NEPTUNE rises more than 3 hours earlier than Uranus, so by 7.45 pm at the end of the month. During July, the planet is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.8.

Brighter asteroids

Both (1) Ceres, magnitude 8.8, and (4) Vesta, magnitude 8.6, start July in Cancer.

They are below Venus in the evening sky, so setting shortly after the Sun, making them virtually unobservable. Both are in conjunction with the Sun during August.

Other asteroids brighten to become possible binocular objects during July.

(3) Juno brightens from 9.7 to 9.1 during the month, and (7) Iris from 9.3 to 8.4. Both are in Aquarius and about 15° apart. Early in July they rise mid evening, so are essentially late evening objects. They are at opposition mid August reaching magnitudes 9.0 and 7.9 respectively.

(8) Flora is at opposition on July 20 at magnitude 8.7. It starts the month in Capricornus at magnitude 9.3. Flora moves into Sagittarius on the 11th.

(2) Pallas is at magnitude 9.2 in Orion, so not near opposition.

-- Brian Loader


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

July 1 Pluto at opposition
July 5 Aldebaran 3.3 degrees south of the Moon
Earth at aphelion
July 6 Moon northern most declination (20.1 degrees)
Mars 3.7 degrees north of the Moon
July 7 Moon at apogee
Jupiter 3.5 degrees north of the Moon
July 8 Moon new
Mercury 0.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
July 9 Saturn stationary
Mercury inferior conjunction
July 11 Regulus 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
July 16 Moon first quarter
Spica 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Saturn 3.2 degrees north of the Moon
July 17 Uranus stationary
July 20 Moon southern most declination (-20.0 degrees)
Mercury stationary
July 21 Pluto 1.0 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Moon at perigee
July 22 Mars 0.8 degrees north of Jupiter
Venus 1.1 degrees north of Regulus
Moon full
July 25 Neptune 5.4 degrees south of the Moon
July 27 Uranus 3.3 degrees south of the Moon
July 29 Moon last quarter
July 30 Mercury greatest elong W(20)
  • aphelion: Furtherest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Sun
  • 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.
  • 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

June Moon & Planet data for 2013


Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Last quarter:  June  1 at  6.58 am NZST (May 31, 18:58 UT)
New moon:      June  9 at  3.57 pm NZST (Jun  8, 15:57 UT)
First quarter: June 17 at  5.24 am NZST (Jun 16, 17:24 UT)
Full moon:     June 23 at 11.32 pm NZST (11:32 UT)
Last quarter   June 30 at  4.54 pm NZST (04:54 UT)

Southern winter solstice: June 21st, 5.05 pm NZST

The planets in June

Saturn is easily visible all evening throughout June. Venus will be briefly visible after sunset very low to the northwest. Mercury is near Venus throughout June. On the 1st Jupiter is close to Venus but even lower. It disappears after a night or two to be in conjunction with the Sun on June 19 and is virtually unobservable.

In the morning sky Mars will rise a little before the Sun but be very low.

Planetary conjunction

The last of a series of conjunctions occurs on June 21 when Mercury will be 2° to the upper left of Venus. The two will be low in the twilit evening sky almost round to the northwest from west. Mercury will be at magnitude 1.4, so Venus will act as a marker to locate the fainter planet.

Planets in the evening sky: Venus and Mercury, Saturn.

VENUS will be low in the evening sky at sunset but should be easily visible some 30 minutes later. It sets about an hour after the Sun on the 1st when it will be only 4° up half an hour after sundown. By the 30th it will set nearly 2 hours after the Sun. With an altitude of 12° half an hour after sunset it will be an easy find.

On the 1st, Venus will be the middle planet of a line of three. Jupiter will be 3.5° to its lower left but very low. Mercury will be on the opposite side of Venus, 4° away to its upper right. Given a low horizon, this grouping may be a last chance to spot Jupiter, in binoculars, before it is at conjunction with the Sun on the 19th.

The moon, as a very thin crescent only 2% lit, will be 5° to the left of, and very slightly higher than, Venus on the 10th. Mercury will 9° to the moon’s right. The following evening, the moon now nearly 6% lit and a little more obvious, will be 6° above Mercury and 9° from Venus.

MERCURY starts June as a reasonably bright object in the evening sky setting some 80 minutes after the Sun. For the first part of the month it gets a little higher in the evening sky, keeping a similar distance ahead of Venus, but Mercury fades a little. The planet reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun on the 12th when it will be 24° to the east of our star.

In the days that follow Venus, still moving away from the Sun, soon catches up with Mercury. The two are in conjunction on the 21st, when Mercury will be 2° to the upper left of Venus, but a good 5 magnitudes fainter. Binoculars will probably be needed to spot Mercury in the evening twilight. Locate Venus first!

By the end of June, Mercury will be 11° to the lower left of Venus. At magnitude 2.9 it is likely to be difficult to find.

SATURN is an easy evening object all month. On the 1st it transits, when it is due north and at its highest, around 10pm, by the 30th at 8pm. The planet is well south of the. celestial equator meaning it is quite high in NZ skies, nearly 60° up at its highest. The star Spica, will be about 12° to the left or lower left of Saturn throughout June, with the planet nearly a magnitude brighter.

The 78% lit moon will be 5° to the left of Saturn on the evening of June 19.

Mars in the morning sky

MARS is the only planet in the morning sky but not likely to be visible. It rises 50 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and just over 70 minutes before it on the 30th. At the latter date by the time Mars is 5° up, the Sun will be less than 7° below the horizon in a similar direction. As a result and with a magnitude 1.5, Mars is not likely to be visible to the eye.

Outer planets

URANUS rises about 2.30 am at the beginning of June and nearly two hours earlier by the end of the month. It will be in Pisces near a corner of Cetus at magnitude 5.9.

NEPTUNE rises 3 hours before Uranus, shortly before midnight at the beginning of June. The planet is currently in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9 during June.

Brighter asteroids

Both (1) Ceres, magnitude 8.8, and (4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, start June in Gemini. Ceres moves into Cancer mid month. They will then set nearly two and a half hours after the Sun, Ceres 10 minutes after Vesta.

On the 1st Vesta will be some 17° to the upper right of Venus and 10° left of Pollux, beta Gem, mag 1.2. Ceres will be 2.5° to the left of the star. By June 7th, Ceres will be at its closest to Pollux, just over half a degree to its upper left.

Venus moves up to pass Vesta later in June. On the 22nd, Vesta will be less than half a degree to the right of Venus, the following night it will be a similar distance below Venus.

By the end of June Vesta will set just over 80 minutes after the Sun, while Vesta sets 100 minutes after.

-- Brian Loader


Diary of events in June

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

June 3 Uranus 3.7 degrees south of the Moon
June 7 Mars 1.8 degrees north of the Moon
Neptune stationary
Aldebaran 3.4 degrees south of the Moon
June 8 Moon new
Moon northern most declination (20.2 degrees)
June 9 Jupiter 3.0 degrees north of the Moon
Moon at apogee
June 10 Venus 5.2 degrees north of the Moon
Mercury 5.8 degrees north of the Moon
June 12 Mercury greatest elong E(24)
June 14 Mars 5.7 degrees north of Aldebaran
Regulus 5.5 degrees north of the Moon
June 16 Moon first quarter
June 18 Spica 0.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
June 19 Saturn 3.4 degrees north of the Moon
Jupiter at conjunction
June 20 Mercury 2.0 degrees south of Venus
June 21 Solstice
June 22 Venus 5.2 degrees south of Pollux
Moon southern most declination (-20.2 degrees)
June 23 Moon full
Moon at perigee
June 24 Pluto 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
June 25 Mercury stationary
June 27 Neptune 5.5 degrees south of the Moon
June 30 Moon last quarter
Uranus 3.5 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
  • 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

May Moon & Planet data for 2013


Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Last quarter:  May  2 at 11.14 pm NZST (11:14 UT)
New moon:      May 10 at 12.28 pm NZST (00:28 UT)  eclipse of Sun
First quarter: May 18 at  4.35 pm NZST (04:35 UT)
Full moon:     May 25 at  4.25 pm NZST (04:25 UT)  RASNZ conference dinner
Last quarter   Jun  1 at  6.58 am NZST (May 31, 18:58 UT)

Solar eclipse.

An annular eclipse of the Sun will occur on the morning of May 10. The path of annularity starts at dawn in Australia, its path to the east taking it across York Peninsula where it crosses the path of the 2012 total eclipse. The subsequent northerly loop across the Pacific of this year’s eclipse takes the path away from New Zeland.

Only a very slight partial eclipse of the Sun will be visible from the North Island and the north and west of the South Island of New Zealand. At its greatest some 14% of the solar disk will be covered by the moon as seen from North Cape. The time of maximum eclipse as seen from New Zealand ranges from 11.40 am to noon. No eclipse will be visible from the aoutheast of the South Island south of about the mouth of the Clarence.

More details of the eclipse can be found on the RASNZ web site: < http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Eclipses/2013Eclipses.shtml#Sun1>

The planets in May

At the end of May, four of the naked eye planets will be in Taurus – along with the Sun. Only Saturn will be readily observable, by the end of May it will transit and so be highest to the north at 10 pm.

Planetary conjunctions

Venus, Mercury and Jupiter form a varying cluster of planets towards in the latter part of May with a series of mutual conjunctions. The conjunctions will all be difficult to see in the evening with the three planets setting no more than an hour after the Sun.

On the 24th Mercury will be at its closest to Venus, 1.4° below the brighter planet. Jupiter will be 4.6° away to the upper right of Venus.

Three evenings later, on the 27th, Mercury will be at its closest to Jupiter, but in fact still a little closer to Venus. The three planets will form a small triangle with Jupiter at the apex. Venus will be 1.8° below and slightly left of Jupiter. Mercury will be 2.4° below and to the right of Jupiter and 2.0° to the right of and very slightly lower than Venus.

The following evening Venus will be almost directly below and 1.1° from Jupiter, with Mercury 2.5° to the right of Venus and a shade higher.

Half an hour after sunset Venus will be about 3.5° above a sea level horizon, so very low. At magnitude -3.9 it should be readily visible in a clear sky. Jupiter a little higher is 2 magnitudes fainter while Mercury is at -0.6. All should be visible in binoculars.

Planets in the evening sky.

MERCURY in fact starts May in the morning sky. On the 1st it will rise just over an hour before the Sun. Half an hour later the planet will be about 5° above the horizon a little to the north of east. At magnitude -1 it may be visible in binoculars. Mercury will steadily get lower in the sky each following morning so becoming lost to view in the brightening sky after a few days.

On the morning of the 12th Mecury is at superior conjunction with the Sun. After conjunction the planet becomes an evening object. By the end of the month it will set just over an hour after the Sun. On the 31st Mercury will be about 5° up half an hour after sunset, with the planet, magnitude -0.4, to the northwest.

During May, Mercury moves across Aries and Taurus as it passes first Mars and then Venus and Jupiter. The conjunction with Mars occurs with the planets too close to the Sun to see. On the last evening of May, Mercury will be poised to move on into Gemini.

VENUS is an evening object throughout May. On the 1st it will set only 25 minutes after the Sun. This increases to an hour later by the end of May. By then it should be visible low in the north-westerly sky soon after sunset.

On the 31st, Venus will be a little less than 4° above the horizon half an hour after sunset. Jupiter will be 2.5° to its left and slightly lower, while Mercury will be 3.7° to its right and slightly higher.

Venus starts May in Aries, but moves on into Taurus on the 4th.

JUPITER sets just about 2 hours after the Sun at the beginning of May and 55 minutes later than the Sun on the 31st. So it will be a low object to the northwest as the evening sky darkens.

On the 12th a very thin crescent moon, only 4.5% lit will be 4.5° to the left of Jupiter. Three quarters of an hour after sunset the two will be about 7° up with Jupiter near northwest.

Jupiter is in Taurus all month.

SATURN was at opposition at the end of April so becomes a well placed evening object during May. At the end of the month it will be due north and highest in the sky close to 10 pm. The planet will starts May in Libra but its slow retrograde motion takes it back into Virgo on the 14th. It will be about midway between Spica mag 1.1 and beta Lib, mag 2.6. When highest in the sky the three will form a nearly horizontal line high to the north.

The moon and Saturn are in conjunction a couple of days before the moon is full. Early in the evening of the 23rd, the 95% lit moon will be to upper right of Saturn.

MARS will be the only planet in the morning sky all month but remains difficult to see. It rises only 15 minutes before the Sun on the 1st increasing to 48 minutes earlier on the 31st. At magnitude 1.4 it is not likely to be visible to the eye.

Outer planets

URANUS rises about 4.30 am at the beginning of May, two hours earlier by the end of the month. It will be in Pisces near a corner of Cetus at magnitude 5.9.

NEPTUNE rises 3 hours before Uranus, so shortly before midnight by the end of May. The planet is currently in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9 during May.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta move across Gemini during May. Vesta at magnitude 8.4 is a little brighter than Ceres. By the end of May they will set about 2.5 hours after the Sun. Ceres will then be approaching beta Gem, magnitude 1.2. It is 3° from the star on the 31st. Vesta will be 8° “behind” Ceres.


Diary of events in May

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

May 2 Moon last quarter
May 4 Neptune 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
May 6 Uranus 3.8 degrees south of the Moon
May 7 Mercury 0.4 degrees south of Mars
May 9 Mars 0.4 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Mercury 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
May 10 Moon new Eclipse
May 11 Venus 1.4 degrees north of the Moon
Aldebaran 3.4 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury superior conjunction
May 12 Moon northern most declination (20.2 degrees)
Jupiter 2.5 degrees north of the Moon
May 13 Moon at apogee
May 17 Venus 5.8 degrees north of Aldebaran
May 18 Moon first quarter
Regulus 5.6 degrees north of the Moon
May 22 Spica 0.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
May 23 Saturn 3.5 degrees north of the Moon
May 24 Mercury 1.4 degrees north of Venus
May 25 Moon full
May 26 Moon at perigee
Moon southern most declination (-20.2 degrees)
May 27 Mercury 2.3 degrees north of Jupiter
Pluto 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
May 28 Venus 1.0 degrees north of Jupiter
May 31 Neptune 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
Moon last quarter
  • 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

April Moon & Planet data for 2013


Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

  Last quarter:  Apr  3 at  5.37 pm NZDT (04:37 UT)
  New moon:      Apr 10 at  9.35 pm NZST (09:35 UT)
  First quarter: Apr 19 at 12.31 am NZST (Apr 18, 12:31 UT)
  Full moon:     Apr 26 at  7.57 am NZST (Apr 25, 19:57 UT).

The planets in April

Only Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during February. By the end of the month Jupiter will set about midnight so will be low late evening. Saturn will still be best seen as a morning object, but will rise a little 11 pm at the end of the month.

Mercury and Mars will be very low in the sky immediately after sunset, while Venus will be low in the morning sky at sunrise.

Comet Panstarrs may be reasonably bright by the end of February, visible both in the morning and evening, rising before the Sun and setting after it.

The evening sky.

VENUS was at superior conjunction at the end of March. In April it is an evening object, but will set less than half an hour after the Sun so will be at best very difficult to see.

MARS is at conjunction with the Sun on April 18, so will also not be visible during April. After conjunction it will become a morning sky object.

JUPITER sets just over 2.5 hours after the Sun at the beginning of April and about 1.5 hours after it at the end of the month. 30 minutes after sunset it will be visible to the northwest, about 21° up on the 1st, reducing to 15° by the 30th. The planet remains in Taurus with Aldebaran to its left, their separation increasing from a little over 5° on the 1st to 9° during April.

The crescent moon passes Jupiter on the morning of the 15th. They are closest about 6 am while Jupiter is set in NZ. The previous evening the two will be about 6.5° apart with the moon left of Jupiter. The following evening they will be about a degree closer, but with the moon now to the right of Jupiter.

SATURN is at opposition on April 28 and becomes a good evening object during the month. On the 1st it will rise a little after 8.30 pm, NZDT. By the end of April it will rise a few minutes after 5.30 pm NZST. Two hours after it rises, the planet will be a little over 20° up to the east

Saturn is in Libra all April with the wide double star alpha Lib a few degrees to its right. Alpha Lib has a magnitude 2.7, its companion 5.2. Beta Lib will be about twice as far away to the lower right of the planet. Despite its name, beta is slightly brighter than alpha. The star Spica, will be another step further away to the upper left of Saturn. At magnitude 1.1 Spica is the brightest of the three star, but Saturn is a magnitude brighter still.

The moon, a few hours past full, will be some 5° to the right of Saturn in the early evening of April 26. During the evening the moon will slowly move further from Saturn towards the star alpha Lib. The moon will occult the star soon after 10.30 pm as seen in New Zealand, times varying by a few minutes through the country. This disappearance takes place on the lit limb of the moon making it very difficult to observe. Just over an hour later the star emerges again from the opposite side of the moon.

The morning sky: Mercury (and Saturn)

MERCURY, in the morning sky, rises more than 2 hours before the Sun during the first half of April. An hour before sunrise it will be an easy object to the east about 15° above the horizon.

It starts the month at magnitude 0.3 and brightens to -0.1 by the 15th and -0.9 by the 30th. This makes it the brightest star-like object in the eastern sky.

During the second half of April the planet will become lower in the morning sky, by the 30th it rises only 70 minutes before the Sun The lower altitude will be compensate by its increasing brightness so it should be visible 45 minutes before sunrise.

On the morning of the 21st Mercury will be 2° to the right of Uranus. At magnitude 5.9 Uranus is readily visible through binoculars as the brightest object to the right of Mercury. A star, half a magnitude fainter than Uranus will be quite close to its lower. This should present a good opportunity to view the outer planet.

SATURN in the morning sky becomes very low to the west before sunrise so will only be readily visible well before that time.

Outer planets

URANUS moves up into the morning sky. Its conjunction with Mercury on the 21st is note above.

NEPTUNE is a 7.9 magnitude, morning object in Aquarius, some 30° above and to the left of Mercury. The 14% lit crescent moon will be 6° to the left of Neptune on the morning of April 7.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta move away from Jupiter and Aldebaran during April.

Ceres spends the month in Auriga with a magnitude near 8.7. Vesta is in Taurus most of the month but moves into Gemini on the 26th. Its magnitude is near 8.3


Diary of events in May

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 Moon southern most declination (-20.3 degrees)
April 3 Pluto 0.9 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Moon last quarter
April 6 Neptune 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
April 7 Venus 0.6 degrees south of Mars
April 9 Uranus 3.8 degrees south of the Moon
April 10 Moon new
Mars 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
Venus 3.1 degrees south of the Moon
April 12 Pluto stationary
April 14 Aldebaran 3.5 degrees south of the Moon
Jupiter 2.0 degrees north of the Moon
April 15 Moon northern most declination (20.2 degrees)
Moon at apogee
April 18 Mars at conjunction
Moon first quarter
April 20 Mercury 1.8 degrees south of Uranus
April 21 Regulus 5.6 degrees north of the Moon
April 25 Spica 0.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Moon full Eclipse
April 26 Saturn 3.4 degrees north of the Moon
April 27 Moon at perigee
April 28 Saturn at opposition
Moon southern most declination (-20.2 degrees)
April 30 Pluto 1.0 degrees south of the Moon Occn
  • 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
  • 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

March Moon & Planet data for 2013


Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

  Last quarter:  Mar  4 at 10.53 am NZDT (Mar  3, 21:53 UT)
  New moon:      Mar 12 at  8.51 am NZDT (Mar 11, 19:51 UT)
  First quarter: Mar 20 at  6.27 am NZDT (Mar 19, 17:27 UT)
  Full moon:     Mar 27 at 10.27 pm NZDT (9:27 UT).

The planets in March

As in February, Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during March. Jupiter will be best seen in the early evening soon after sunset, Saturn will be visible in the later evening and in the morning half an hour or more before sunrise.

In the evening Mars sets less than half an hour after the Sun and will not be visible. In the morning Venus rises less than half an hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month and is at conjunction near the end of March, so will at best be difficult to see.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the 4th and will then become a morning object. Towards the end of March it will be easily seen low to the east an hour before sunrise.

Comet panstarrs may be visible very low to the west an hour after sunset for the first few evenings of March.

The evening sky.

Mars sets less than half an hour after the Sun so will not be visible in March.

Jupiter will still be prominent, visible soon after sunset, but getting low, to the northwest. The planet itself will set less than 4 hours after the Sun at the beginning of March, three hours or less later than the sun at the end of the month. So Jupiter will drop out of sight late evening.

The planet remains in Taurus a few degrees below Aldebaran with the asteroids Vesta and Ceres to its right.

The 35% lit moon is at its closest to Jupiter for the month soon after midday on March 18. The two will be less than a degree apart as seen from New Zealand in the early to mid afternoon, soon after they rise. In the evening, by the time the sky is dark enough to easily see Jupiter, the two will be nearly 3° apart.

Saturn moves more into the evening sky during March rising just after 10:30pm on the 1st and 2 hours earlier on the 31st. At the beginning of the month it will be easily visible to the east at midnight some 15° above the horizon. On the night of March 2, the 7% lit moon will be 2.5° above Saturn.

By the end of March, Saturn will be in a similar position at 10 pm and nearly 40° up by midnight. Saturn will not set until well after sunrise so will also be visible in the morning sky while it is still reasonably dark. The moon passes Saturn for a second time in March, on the night of the 29th-30th. On the morning of the 30th, the moon will be 3° to the left of Saturn. Late on the previous evening the moon will be just over 5° above the planet.

Saturn is in Libra during March moving slowly to the west. The wide double star alpha Lib will be about 5° to the right of Saturn as seen in the late evening sky. By the morning before sunrise, when Saturn will be to the west, the rotation of the sky will bring alpha Lib to be above Saturn.

During March the north pole of Saturn is tilted at an angle of 19° towards the Earth. This tilt will result in the rings being readily visible when the planet is viewed through a small telescope.

The morning sky: Mercury and Venus (and Saturn)

Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on March 4. It will then be 94.2 million km (0.63 au) from the Earth and 54 million km (0.36 au) from the Sun

Following conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object, rising before the Sun. The planet will move quite rapidly up into the morning sky during the month. It passes Venus on 7th, by the 12th it will rise about an hour before the Sun, and a week later as much as 2 hours earlier.

At its greatest towards the end of March and beginning of April, Mercury will rise some 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier than the Sun, resulting in its best morning sky appearance of the year for southern hemisphere viewers. An hour before sunrise, the planet will be about 14° above the horizon almost due east. At near zero magnitude it will be the brightest object to the east. This provides an excellent chance to see the elusive planet in the morning sky. With sunrise at 7.30 am or later, it will be visible at a fairly reasonable hour.

Venus is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the morning of March 29, nzdt. It will then be 258 million km (1.72 au) from the Earth and 109 million km from the Sun.

Before conjunction it is a morning object but at the beginning of March it will rise little more than 30 minutes before the Sun, so will not be well placed for viewing. Venus’s time of rise gets closer to that of the Sun during the rest of the month.

Following conjunction, Venus will become an evening object but will set very shortly after the Sun at first.

Outer planets

Uranus is at conjunction with the Sun on March 29, 7 hours after Venus is at superior conjunction. This will mean the planet is too close to the Sun to observe in March. At conjunction, Uranus will be 3149 million km (21 au) from the Earth and 2999 million km from the Sun.

Neptune moves up into the morning sky a little above Mercury. The two are closest on the mornings of the 19 to 21st of March when Neptune will be just under 3° above Mercury. Neptune will be at magnitude 8 with a 7th magnitude star half a degree below it in the direction of Mercury.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta start in Taurus during March, not far from Jupiter.

On the 1st, Ceres, at magnitude 8.3 will be 1° to the left of El Nath, beta Tau at mag 1.7 the second brightest star in Taurus. The two are closest on the 8th with Ceres less than half a degree above El Nath. On the 21st Ceres slips into the constellation Auriga and moves almost along its border with Taurus for the rest of the month. On March 31 Ceres will be at magnitude 8.6 and some 18° to the right of Jupiter.

Vesta starts March at magnitude 7.9. It will be to the right of Jupiter and Aldebaran, the three forming an approximate equilateral triangle, just under 6° each side. The asteroid remains in Taurus for the rest of March. By the end of March it will be at magnitude 8.2, its distance from Jupiter increasing to almost 10°

Bright comet:

Comet PANSTARRS will probably be visible in the early evening from the latitude of nz very low an hour after sunset for the first few evenings of March. On the 1st an hour after sunset, it will be to the southwest, but each successive evening it will have shifted a little more towards due west.

It is expected to be brightest on the 9th and 10th at magnitude 0.7 when, if visible, it will then be in a direction only just south of west. The comet will sbe almost directly above the set Sun so in the brightest part of the dusk sky.


Event Diary

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 Spica 0.1 degrees north of the Moon Occn
March 2 Saturn 3.3 degrees north of the Moon
March 4 Mercury inferior conjunction
Moon last quarter
March 5 Moon southern most declination (-20.5 degrees)
Moon at perigee
March 6 Pluto 0.7 degrees south of the Moon Occn
March 7 Mercury 4.8 degrees north of Venus
March 10 Neptune 5.5 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury 2.0 degrees south of the Moon
March 11 Venus 5.9 degrees south of the Moon
Moon new
March 12 Mars 4.5 degrees south of the Moon
March 13 Uranus 4.0 degrees south of the Moon
March 16 Mercury stationary
March 18 Jupiter 1.4 degrees north of the Moon
Aldebaran 3.6 degrees south of the Moon
Moon northern most declination (20.4 degrees)
March 19 Moon at apogee
Moon first quarter
Jupiter 5.0 degrees north of Aldebaran
March 20 Equinox
March 22 Mars 0.0 degrees north of Uranus
March 24 Regulus 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
March 27 Moon full
March 28 Spica 0.0 degrees north of the Moon Occn
Venus superior conjunction
Venus 0.7 degrees south of Uranus
March 29 Uranus at conjunction
Saturn 3.3 degrees north of the Moon
March 31 Moon at perigee
Mercury greatest elong W(28)
  • 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
  • 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
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

Feburary Moon & Planet data for 2013


Only Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during February. By the end of the month Jupiter will set about midnight so will be low late evening. Saturn will still be best seen as a morning object, but will rise a little 11 pm at the end of the month.

Mercury and Mars will be very low in the sky immediately after sunset, while Venus will be low in the morning sky at sunrise.

Comet Panstarrs may be reasonably bright by the end of February, visible both in the morning and evening, rising before the Sun and setting after it.


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 2 Spica 0.3 degrees north of the Moon Occn
February 3 Saturn 3.4 degrees north of the Moon
Moon last quarter
February 4 Mars 0.4 degrees south of Neptune
February 6 Moon southern most declination (-20.6 degrees)
Mercury 0.4 degrees south of Neptune
February 7 Moon at perigee
Pluto 0.5 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 8 Mercury 0.3 degrees north of Mars
February 9 Venus 5.7 degrees south of the Moon
February 10 Moon new
February 11 Neptune 5.5 degrees south of the Moon
Mars 5.8 degrees south of the Moon
Mercury 4.9 degrees south of the Moon
February 13 Uranus 4.2 degrees south of the Moon
February 16 Mercury greatest elong E(18)
February 17 Moon first quarter
February 18 Jupiter 0.9 degrees north of the Moon Occn
Aldebaran 3.8 degrees south of the Moon
February 19 Moon at apogee
Saturn stationary
Moon northern most declination (20.6 degrees)
February 21 Neptune at conjunction
February 22 Mercury stationary
February 25 Regulus 5.4 degrees north of the Moon
Moon full
February 26 Mercury 4.1 degrees north of Mars
February 28 Venus 0.7 degrees south of Neptune
  • 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
  • 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

January Moon & Planet data for 2013


The Earth is at perihelion on January 2, when the distance between Earth and Sun will be 0.983 Au, just over 147 million km. The Sun´s apparent diameter will be at its greatest, 32.5 arc-minutes.

Jupiter will be the prominent planet of the evening sky, as will be Saturn in the early dawn sky. Venus will appear low to the east shortly before sunrise. Mars, in the evening, will be very low and become lost in twilight during the month. Mercury starts the month in the morning sky but becomes an evening object after superior conjunction. It is likely to be too close to the Sun to see throughout January.

Mars and Jupiter in The Evening Sky.

Mars sets about 90 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of the year. On the 1st it will be only some 6° above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset. At magnitude 1.2 it will not be an easy object in the still bright sky low to the west. It will get steadily lower during the month so lost to view. By the end of January the planet will be setting about 50 minutes later than the Sun.

Jupiter will be a much easier object. It transits late evening at the beginning of January. At this time the star Aldebaran will be just over 5° to the upper right of the planet. The asteroid Vesta at magnitude 6.9 will be a similar distance also to the right of Jupiter and about half the distance low and slightly to the right of Aldebaran.

Jupiter will be moving in a retrograde sense to the west through January but gradually slowing until in the early hours of the 31st it is stationary. By the 31st the planet will transit and be highest just before 9 pm. Jupiter is currently well north of the equator so low in southern skies. The transit altitude is 28° at Wellington.

On January 22 the moon will occult Jupiter, but before it rises in New Zealand. The event is visible at night in central South America. By the time Jupiter rises in NZ in the afternoon, the moon will be 1° beyond the planet, the distance increasing to 3° by the time the sky is dark.

The Morning Sky: Mercury, Venus and Saturn

Mercury is a morning object for the first part of January. It rises 45 minutes before the Sun on January 1 when it will be 11° to the lower right of Venus, but it will be only 2° up half an hour before sunrise. Observation will thus be very difficult. On subsequent mornings Mercury gets steadily closer to the Sun until it is at superior conjunction on the 18th.

After conjunction Mercury becomes an evening object setting after the Sun. By the end of January it sets only 30 minutes after sunset, so again will be too close to the Sun to observe.

Venus will be a little higher than Mercury in the morning sky and, of course, much easier to see. The planet rises about 80 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and more like 70 minutes earlier by the 31st. Thus it should be fairly easy to see before sunrise, rather low in a direction a little to the south of east.

The thin crescent moon will be some 10° to the upper left of Venus on the morning the 10th. The following morning, as an even finer crescent, it will be only 5° directly below Venus. The strong morning twilight may make the moon difficult to see.

Saturn, in contrast to Mercury and Venus, will be an easy-to-see object before dawn. It rises about 2.30 am NZDT on the 1st and almost 2 hours earlier by the 31st. Saturn will be in Libra moving to the east. An hour before sunrise the planet will be to the left of the double star alpha Lib, the two being less than 5° apart by the end of January.

The crescent moon will be about 5° to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of January 7, and a similar distance to the lower right of alpha Lib the following morning.


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 Regulus 5.6 degrees north of the Moon
January 2 Earth at perihelion
January 5 Moon last quarter
Spica 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
January 6 Mercury 4.7 degrees south of Pluto
Saturn 3.6 degrees north of the Moon
January 9 Moon southern most declination (-20.8 degrees)
January 10 Moon at perigee
Venus 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
January 11 Pluto 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
Mercury 5.7 degrees south of the Moon
Moon new
January 14 Neptune 5.6 degrees south of the Moon
January 17 Uranus 4.5 degrees south of the Moon
Venus 3.3 degrees south of Pluto
January 18 Mercury superior conjunction
Moon first quarter
January 22 Jupiter 0.5 degrees north of the Moon Occn
Aldebaran 4.0 degrees south of the Moon
Moon at apogee
January 23 Moon northern most declination (20.8 degrees)
January 27 Moon full
January 28 Regulus 5.5 degrees north of the Moon
January 30 Jupiter stationary
  • 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
  • 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