April Moon & Planet data for 2017


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 Aldebaran 0.4 degrees south of the Moon Occn
April 1 Mercury greatest elong E(19)
April 3 Moon northern most declination (19.0 degrees)
April 3 Moon first quarter
April 6 Saturn stationary
April 7 Regulus 0.7 degrees north of the Moon Occn
April 7 Jupiter at opposition
April 10 Mercury stationary
April 10 Jupiter 2.1 degrees south of the Moon
April 11 Moon full
April 12 Venus stationary
April 14 Uranus at conjunction
April 15 Moon at apogee
April 16 Saturn 3.2 degrees south of the Moon
April 17 Moon southern most declination (-19.1 degrees)
April 18 Pluto 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
April 19 Moon last quarter
April 20 Mercury inferior conjunction
April 20 Pluto stationary
April 22 Neptune 0.2 degrees north of the Moon Occn
April 23 Venus 4.9 degrees north of the Moon
April 25 Uranus 3.5 degrees north of the Moon
April 25 Mercury 4.3 degrees north of the Moon
April 26 Moon new
April 27 Moon at perigee
April 28 Mars 5.6 degrees north of the Moon
April 28 Aldebaran 0.5 degrees south of the Moon Occn
April 28 Mercury 0.2 degrees south of Uranus
April 30 Moon northern most declination (19.2 degrees)
  • 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

The Solar System In January 2017

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

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in January

                            January  1  NZDT                 January 31  NZDT
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   5.48am,  set:  8.59pm    rise:   6.22am,  set:  8.44pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 5.18am,  ends: 9.31pm    starts: 5.54am,  ends: 9.13pm
  Nautical: starts: 4.35am,  ends:10.14pm    starts: 5.16am,  ends: 9.51pm
  Astro:    starts: 3.44am,  ends:11.04pm    starts: 4.34am,  ends:10.33pm

January phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          First quarter: January  6 at  8.47 am (Jan  5, 19:47 UT)
  Full moon:     January 13 at 12.34 am (Jan 12, 11:34 UT)
  Last quarter   January 20 at 11.13 am (Jan 19, 22:13 UT)
  New moon:      January 28 at  1.07 pm (00:07 UT)

The Earth is at perihelion, its closest to the Sun for the year, on January 4 at 11 pm (NZDT), 10 hours UT. The Earth will then be 0.9833 AU, 147.1 million km, from the centre of the Sun, which will have an apparent angular diameter of 32.53 arc-minute.

The planets in January 2017

Venus remains the obvious bright planet in the evening sky with Mars, much fainter, only a few degrees higher. Mercury will be a morning object visible an hour before sunrise during the second half of the month. Jupiter and Saturn are also morning planets. Jupiter rises just before midnight by the end of January. Saturn will be readily visible to the east by the end of the month.

Evening Planets

Venus will remain brilliant in the evening sky throughout January reaching magnitude -4.7 by the 31st. It will get a little lower in the western sky, setting by 10.30 pm at the end of January. The planet starts January in Aquarius moving on into Pisces on the 23rd.

On the 13th Venus will pass Neptune, magnitude 7.9. At their closest their separation will be 21 arc-minutes, less than the diameter of the full moon. By 10 pm, when the sky should be dark enough to see Neptune in binoculars, the two planets will be 36 arc-minutes apart with Neptune to the left of and slightly higher than Venus

The crescent moon will be a couple of degrees below Venus on January 2.

Mars is a little higher than Venus throughout January, its brightness fading slightly from magnitude 0.9 to 1.1 during the month. It is 12° from Venus on the 1st, the separation decreasing to 5.5° by the 31st. On January 19 Mars will move into Pisces from Aquarius.

Early in January, Mars and Neptune are very close, the separation being only 4.9 arc-minutes on the 1st about 1-6th of the diameter of the full moon. Neptune is then to the lower left of Mars with a magnitude 7.9 so visible in binoculars. There will be no star nearby which could be confused with Neptune.

Mars will move away from Neptune during the following evenings but on the 3rd the two, now 1.5° apart, will be joined by the 25% lit crescent moon. By the time the sky is dark enough to see the planets, the moon will have just moved past them and be about 1° from Mars. A few hours earlier the moon will occult first Neptune and then Mars, events visible from the parts of the north Pacific.

Morning Planets

Jupiter is the brightest planet in the morning sky, it will be joined there by Saturn and Mercury during the month. On the 1st Jupiter rises at 1.25 am, almost 2 hours earlier by the 31st, that is shortly before midnight. In Virgo, Jupiter starts the month 4.4° from Spica. Its slowing, easterly movement brings it to just over 3.5° from the star by the end of the month.

On the morning of the 20th, the moon at last quarter, will be just over 5° from Jupiter and 7° from Spica.

Saturn, emerging into the morning sky after its December conjunction, will rise about 80 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and more than three and a half hours earlier than the Sun on the 31st. The planet is in Ophiuchus at magnitude 0.5.

On the morning of the 25th, the crescent moon will be just over 5° below Saturn as seen from New Zealand.

Mercury also emerges from the Sun into the morning sky following its inferior conjunction at the end of December. At first it will be too close to the Sun to see. The westerly retrograde motion of the planet will move it quite rapidly away from the Sun, so that when stationary on the 9th, it will rise 75 minutes before the Sun. Mercury will also have brightened from magnitude 2.9 to 0.4, so it May be briefly visible very low to the east-south-east before the sky gets too bright to see the planet. It will then be some 6.5° to the lower right of Saturn.

Mercury’s distance from the Sun continues to increase for another 10 days until it reaches its greatest elongation on the morning of the 20th. It will then be 24° from the Sun at magnitude -0.2, rising 100 minutes before the Sun and so readily visible, if low, up to an hour or less before sunrise. The planet continues to be briefly visible at this sort of time for the rest of the month.

The moon, as a very thin crescent, will be 5° to the left of Mercury on the morning of the 26th.

Outer Planets

Uranus, at magnitude 5.8, remains in Pisces and is observable all evening. It will set after midnight, about 12.30 am by the 31st. The moon, just past first quarter, will be just over 4° to the upper right of Uranus on the 6th.

Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9 throughout January. It conjunctions during the month with Mars, on the 1st, and Venus, on the 13th are described in the notes for those planets.

Pluto is at conjunction with the Sun on January 7, so is not observable during the month. At conjunction Pluto will be over 33 astronomical units from the Sun and over 34 AU, 5.1 billion km, from the Earth.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres starts the month in Cetus but moves into Pisces on the 8th. The asteroid fades a little during the month from magnitude 8.6 to 9.0. Its distance from Uranus increases from 7.2 to 9.5° during the month. The asteroid sets just after midnight at the end of January.

(4) Vesta starts January in Cancer moving on into Gemini on the 19th. It ends the month about 3.5° above and to the right of Pollux, beta Gem, mag 1.2. Vesta is at opposition on the 18th when its magnitude will be 6.2

(18) Melpomene is also in Cetus between 11 and 15 degrees from Ceres. The asteroid continues to fade from magnitude 9.7 to 10.3 during January. Melpomene is on the opposite side of Ceres to Uranus. The asteroid is also a few degrees from comet Harrington-Wilson during January.

(9) Metis and (14) IRENE are both in Leo, about 6° apart. Their magnitudes brighten to 9.5 and 9.4 respectively on the 31st. Metis will then be just over 12° to the right of Regulus, mag 1.4, in a direction towards delta Leo, mag 2.5. Irene will be below Metis. They rise about 10.30 pm.

(15) Eunomia also brightens to magnitude 9.5 by the 31st. It will then be in Sextans, 2.5° to the right of alpha Sex, mag 4.5. Eunomia rises just before 9pm.

Comets.

Two reasonably bright comets should be visible in binoculars during January.

P/Honda-Mrkos- Pajdusakova (45P) at magnitude 7.7 is 16° to the lower left of Venus on the 1st. The 9% lit crescent moon will be 5.5° to the right and slightly lower than the comet. At 10 pm the comet will have an 8° altitude, the moon being a degree lower. Subsequent evenings the comet will get lower in the evening sky and soon be lost to view.

D/Harrington-Wilson (D/1952 B1) is in Cetus, magnitude 8.9 on the 1st and 8.6 on the 31st. It will be quite close to the asteroid (8) Melpomene, their separation being about 6° on the 1st, 4° mid month and just over 6° by the 31st. On the 23rd the comet is less than a degree below the star Menkar, alpha Cet, mag 2.5.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Evening Sky in January 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 January 2017

Brilliant Venus is the 'evening star', appearing due west after sunset. It sets around 11:30 at the beginning of the month, 10:30 by the end. Nearby, but much fainter, is reddish Mars. It is right of Venus and a bit higher in the sky at the beginning of the month. The gap closes so Mars is just above Venus by the 31st. In a telescope Venus looks like a tiny first-quarter Moon. It is 100 million km away at mid-month, catching up on Earth. Mars is 260 million km away, on the far side of the Sun; a tiny disk in a telescope. The Moon is near Venus on the 2nd and 31st, and Mars on the 3rd.

Mars passes the faint blue planet Neptune on New Year's Day but one needs a telescope to see it. Neptune is about 1/10th of a full-moon width (4') below and left of Mars. Neptune is 4.6 billion km from us. Mars moves on quickly. The Mars-Neptune gap is 1½ moon-widths (48') on the 2nd.

Sirius, the brightest true star, appears high in the east at dusk. Called 'the Dog Star' it marks the head of Canis Major the big dog. A group of stars to the right of it make the dog's hindquarters and tail, upside down just now. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky both because it is relatively close, nine light years* away, and 23 times brighter than the sun. Procyon, in the northeast below Sirius, marks the smaller of the two dogs that follow Orion the hunter across the sky.

Left of Sirius as the sky darkens are Rigel and Betelgeuse, the brightest stars in Orion the hunter.

Between them, but fainter, is a line of three stars making Orion's belt. Rigel is a bluish supergiant star, 70 000 times brighter than the sun and much hotter. It is 800 light years away. Orange Betelgeuse, below Orion's belt, is a red-giant star, cooler than the sun but hundreds of times bigger: a ball of extremely thin hot gas. 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. It has a glowing cloud at its centre: the Orion Nebula.

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, Arabic for 'the 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 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.

Jupiter, not shown, rises in the east around 12:30 a.m. mid-month. It is the brightest 'star' in the morning sky and shines with a steady golden light. Saturn is low in the eastern dawn sky below orange Antares. Mercury appears lower and right of Saturn but brighter.

*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 2017


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 Uranus 3.4 degrees north of the Moon
March 1 Mars 4.1 degrees north of the Moon
March 2 Neptune at conjunction
March 2 Venus stationary
March 3 Moon at perigee
March 4 Mercury 1.0 degrees south of Neptune
March 5 Aldebaran 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
March 5 Moon first quarter
March 6 Mercury superior conjunction
March 7 Moon northern most declination (18.9 degrees)
March 10 Regulus 0.8 degrees north of the Moon Occn
March 12 Moon full
March 14 Jupiter 2.3 degrees south of the Moon
March 18 Moon at apogee
March 20 Equinox
March 20 Saturn 3.4 degrees south of the Moon
March 20 Moon last quarter
March 21 Moon southern most declination (-18.9 degrees)
March 22 Pluto 2.7 degrees south of the Moon
March 25 Venus inferior conjunction
March 26 Neptune 0.0 degrees north of the Moon Occn
March 26 Mercury 2.1 degrees north of Uranus
March 28 Moon new
March 29 Uranus 3.4 degrees north of the Moon
March 30 Moon at perigee
March 30 Mars 5.2 degrees north 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
  • superior conjunction: Conjunction where the Sun is between the Earth another solar system object

The Solar System In December 2016

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

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in December

                            December  1  NZST               December 31  NZDT
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   5.39am,  set:  8.40pm    rise:   5.47am,  set:  8.59pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 5.10am,  ends: 9.11pm    starts: 5.17am,  ends: 9.31pm
  Nautical: starts: 4.28am,  ends: 9.52pm    starts: 4.34am,  ends:10.14pm
  Astro:    starts: 3.40am,  ends:10.41pm    starts: 3.43am,  ends:11.05pm

December phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          First quarter: December  7 at 10.03 pm (09:03 UT)
  Full moon:     December 14 at  1.06 pm (00:06 UT)
  Last quarter   December 21 at  2.56 pm (01:56 UT)
  New moon:      December 29 at  7.53 pm (06:53 UT)

The SOUTHERN SUMMER SOLSTICE is on 2016 December 21 at 11.45 pm NZDT (10:45 UT)

The planets in December 2016

Venus remains the most obvious planet in the evening sky. Mars, much fainter, is higher in the sky. Mercury May be briefly visible low in the evening sky about an hour after sunset. It will disappear after about mid month. Jupiter is the only planet visible in the morning sky. Saturn is not likely to be seen during December.

Mercury starts December as an evening object with a magnitude -0.5. On the 1st it will set nearly 100 minutes after the Sun. An hour after sunset, shortly before the end of nautical twilight, the planet will be 5° up in a direction 30° to the south of west. Venus will be some 25° away to its upper right.

Throughout the first half of December Mercury will continue to set up to 100 minutes after the Sun. It reaches its greatest elongation, 21° east of the Sun, on the 11th. After mid December the distance of Mercury from the Sun starts decreasing, so it sets earlier. As a result it will be lost in the evening twilight within a few days. The planet is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on December 29, when it will be 101 million km, 0.675AU, from the Earth and 0.311AU from the Sun.

Venus will remain a brilliant light in the evening sky throughout December reaching magnitude -4.4. It sets shortly before midnight throughout the month. The planet starts December in Sagittarius but, moving to the east, crosses into Capricornus on the 7th. By the 31st Venus will have moved crossed to the eastern edge of the constellation.

The crescent moon will be 6.5° from Venus on the evening of December 3.

Mars starts December in Capricornus at magnitude 0.6. With a distinctly orange colour it will be some 25° to the upper right of Venus. On December 3 Mars passes close to the star iota cap (mag 4.3). They will be closest about 9.30 pm, some 50 minutes after sunset in Wellington, when only 40 arc-seconds apart. about 1% of the moon's diameter. At this distance they will be almost impossible to separate by eye, but fairly easy to do so using binoculars. By midnight Mars will have moved to be just over 4 arc-minutes from the star

Two days later the crescent moon will be 3.5° from Mars.

In mid December Mars moves into Aquarius. It movement across the constellation will be slower than Venus's in Capricornus, as a result the two will be only 12° apart on the 31st. On that evening Mars will have almost caught up Neptune, their separation being some 40 arc-minutes.

Jupiter remains the only one of the naked eye in the December morning sky. On the 1st it rises at 3.15 am, advancing to about 1.30 am by the 31st. The planet is in Virgo, its distance from Spica decreasing from 8 to 4.5° during the month.

On the morning of the 23rd, the moon a day past third quarter, will be just over 3° from Jupiter.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on December 10 so will not be observable during December. At conjunction Saturn will be 1650 million km, 11 au, from the Earth, 10 AU beyond the Sun. By the end of the month it will rise in the morning sky about 75 minutes before the Sun.

Outer Planets

Uranus, at magnitude 5.7, remains in Pisces and is observable all evening. It sets close to 3.30 am on the 1st and two hours earlier on the 31st. The planet is stationary on the 30th. As a result its position changes very little during December, by a distance equivalent to only two-thirds of the diameter of the full moon.

Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9 throughout December. It sets about 2 am on the 1st, and midnight at the end of December. The moon is closest to Neptune on the 6th but still 6° at midnight. A few hours later the moon will occult the planet as seen from the northern Atlantic region including northeast Canada and much of Greenland. Mars will close in on Neptune during December.

Pluto at magnitude 14.5 is very low in the early evening sky. It is in Sagittarius setting only 20 minutes after the Sun by the end of December.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres continues in Cetus during December with its magnitude fading from 8.2 to 8.6. It is stationary mid month resulting in most of its apparent motion being to the north so ending the month some 7° from Uranus.

(18) Melpomene is also in Cetus between 9 and 11 degrees from Ceres. The asteroid, diameter 148 km, fades from magnitude 8.9 to 9.6 during December. Melpomene is on the opposite side of Ceres to Uranus.

Both Ceres and Melpomene are visible all evening not setting until well after midnight.

(4) Vesta is in Cancer throughout December rising about 12.15 am on the 1st and two hours earlier on the 31st. Its magnitude brightens from 7.4 to 6.7 during the month. Vesta starts December 2° from the Beehive cluster, M44. Its westerly retrograde motion sees the asteroid move away from the cluster so that by the 31st they will be 5 degrees apart.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Evening Sky in December 2016

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 2016

Venus is the brilliant ‘evening star’ appearing due west at sunset and setting toward the southwest after midnight. Above and right of Venus, and much fainter, is orange Mars. Below and left of Venus is Mercury, setting about 90 minutes after the Sun till mid-month. After the 15th Mercury sinks into the twilight as it passes between the Earth and the Sun. None of these planets is of much interest in a telescope. Venus looks like a tiny gibbous Moon. Mars and Mercury appear very small. The very thin crescent moon will be below and right of Mercury on the 1st, below Venus on the 3rd, and below Mars on the 5th.

The brightest true 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 and right of the three is the Pot's handle. 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.

Left of Orion is a triangular group making the upside down face of Taurus the bull. Orange Aldebaran is the brightest star in the V shape. Aldebaran is Arabic for 'the eye of the bull'. Still 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 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 will show 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.

Jupiter (not shown) is the brightest 'star' in the morning hours, shining with a steady golden glow. It rises due east before 4 a.m. at the beginning of the month and before 2 a.m. by the New Year. A small telescope will show Jupiter’s disk and its four large moons lined up on either side of the planet. Good binoculars, held steadily, will sometimes show one or two of the moons.

*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 2017


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 Mars 2.2 degrees north of the Moon
February 2 Uranus 3.3 degrees north of the Moon
February 4 Moon first quarter
February 5 Aldebaran 0.3 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 6 Moon at perigee
February 6 Jupiter stationary
February 7 Moon northern most declination (18.9 degrees)
February 11 Moon full Eclipse
February 11 Regulus 0.8 degrees north of the Moon Occn
February 15 Jupiter 2.6 degrees south of the Moon
February 18 Moon last quarter
February 18 Moon at apogee
February 20 Saturn 3.6 degrees south of the Moon
February 21 Moon southern most declination (-18.8 degrees)
February 22 Pluto 2.8 degrees south of the Moon
February 26 Mercury 2.4 degrees south of the Moon
February 26 Moon new Eclipse
February 26 Neptune 0.1 degrees south of the Moon Occn
February 27 Mars 0.6 degrees north of Uranus
  • 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

The Solar System In November 2016

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

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in November

                            November  1  NZST               November 30  NZDT
                    morning  evening                 morning  evening
       SUN: rise:   6.05am,  set:  8.04pm    rise:   5.40am,  set:  8.39pm
Twilights
  Civil:    starts: 5.38am,  ends: 8.32pm    starts: 5.10am,  ends: 9.10pm
  Nautical: starts: 5.02am,  ends: 9.08pm    starts: 4.29am,  ends: 9.51pm
  Astro:    starts: 4.22am,  ends: 9.48pm    starts: 3.41am,  ends:10.39pm

November phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

          First quarter: November  8 at  8.51 am (Nov  7, 19:51 UT)
  Full moon:     November 15 at  2.52 am (Nov 14, 13:52 UT)
  Last quarter   November 21 at  9.33 pm ( 8:33 UT)
  New moon:      November 30 at  1.18 am (Nov 29, 12:18 UT)

The planets in November 2016

Mercury will be visible, low, early evening near the end of November while brilliant Venus will be easily visible until late evening all month. Mars will be even better placed. Saturn starts the month close to Venus but slips lower in the sky during November to disappear into the evening twilight by the end of the month. Meanwhile Jupiter moves up into the morning sky.

Mercury is an evening object during November. Having been at superior conjunction with the Sun on the 28th, the planet will set less than 15 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of the month, making it unobservable. By the month’s end the time difference will have increased to an hour and three-quarters. Thus towards the end of November the planet, at magnitude -0.5, should be visible once the sky is sufficiently dark. Look for it very low to the southwest in the direction of the set Sun.

Venus, by contrast to Mercury, will be visible all evening, not setting until almost midnight by the end of the month. During November Venus moves across Ophiuchus, passing close to theta Oph, magnitude 3.2, on the 5th. The planet moves into Sagittarius on the 9th. On the 17th it will be within 20 arc-minutes of lambda Sgr, mag 2.8 and on the 23rd less than a degree from Nunki, sigma Sgr. At magnitude 2.1, Nunki is the brightest star in the handle of the “teapot”.

At the beginning of November, Venus will be a few degrees above Saturn. The crescent moon joins the pair on the 3rd. The moon will be at about the same altitude as Saturn, with Venus some 5 degrees above them.

Mars will be higher than Venus in the evening sky setting just before 2 am on the 1st and just after 1 am on the 30th. The planet starts November in Sagittarius, close to the position Venus will occupy at the end of the month. During November, Mars will move into Capricornus on the 8th and be well across the constellation by the 30th.

Mars dims slightly during November, from magnitude 0.4 to 0.6 as the Earth moves further from the plant. On the 6th, the moon, as a thick crescent, will be 6 degrees below Mars.

Saturn will remain in Ophiuchus all month. At the beginning of November it will set nearly 3 hours after the Sun, so remaining easily visible with an altitude of 18 degrees at the end of nautical twilight. By the end of November, Saturn will set 37 minutes after the Sun, only 6 minutes after the end of civil twilight, so making it very difficult to see.

Jupiter is the only one of the naked eye planets in the November morning sky. It rises an hour before the Sun on the 1st, 2 hours and 20 minutes before it on the 30th. The planet is in Virgo all month, by the end of November it will be 8 degrees from Spica, at mag 1.1 the brightest star in the constellation.

On the morning of the 25th the crescent moon will be 5.5 deg to the left of Jupiter. The following morning th moon, showing a rather thinner crescent, will be 6.5 degrees from Spica.

Outer Planets

Uranus, at magnitude 5.7, remains in Pisces and is observable all evening. By the 30th Uranus will set 2 hours before sunrise. On the evening of the 12 the near full moon will be 2 degrees above the planet.

Neptune is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9 throughout November. It sets about 4 am on the 1st, and 2 am by the end of November. On the night of November 9/10 the planet will be occulted by the moon an event visible from most of Scandinavia and a large part of Russia. From NZ the moon will be 2 degrees below Neptune as seen in the early morning sky of the 10th.

Pluto at magnitude 14.4 to 14.5 continues in Sagittarius as an early evening object, setting about 1 am on the 1st and 11.15 pm on the 30th. On November 5 the crescent moon will be 3.5 degrees from Pluto, with the planet itself half the moon’s diameter from the 3.7 magnitude star omega Sgr.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres is in Cetus during November with its magnitude fading from 7.6 to 8.1. Ceres is about 11 degrees from Uranus and, on the 12th, 10 degrees from the moon.

(18) Melpomene is also in Cetus between 7 and 8 degrees from Ceres. The asteroid, diameter 148 km, fades from magnitude 8.1 to 8.8 during November. Melpomene is on the opposite side of Ceres to Uranus.

Both Ceres and Melpomene are visible all evening not setting until well after midnight.

(4) Vesta is in Cancer throughout November rising about 2am on the 1st and shortly after midnight on the 30th. Its magnitude brightens from 7.9 to 7.4 during the month. Vesta’s path in Cancer will take it towards M44, the Beehive cluster. On the 30th it will be 2 degrees from M44 but it is then stationary. Subsequently it will move away again from the cluster during December.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand

The Evening Sky in November 2016

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 2016

Venus is the brilliant evening star, appearing in the western sky at sunset and setting in the southwest around 11:30. It is bright enough to cast shadows in dark locations. Just below Venus at the beginning of the month is Saturn with the orange star Antares to its left. Midway up the evening sky, well above Venus, is Mars. It is similar in brightness to Saturn and orange-coloured like Antares. Venus and Mars hold their elevations, night to night, while Saturn and the stars sink lower. The moon will be right of Venus and Saturn on the 3rd and by Mars on the 6th.

Later in the month Mercury appears below Saturn and moves up the twilight sky. Around the 21st Mercury passes between Saturn and Antares, making a line of similar brightness 'stars' on the dusk horizon.

The brightest true stars are in the eastern sky. Midway up the southeast sky is Canopus, the second brightest star. 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 south into the eastern sky. The broadest, brightest part is in Sagittarius, to the right of the Scorpion's sting. 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 of the galaxy is 30 000 light years away in the direction of Sagittarius.

Low in the south are the Pointers, Beta and Alpha Centauri, and Crux the Southern Cross. 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.

Jupiter is in the dawn sky so not on the chart. It rises due east an hour before the sun at the beginning of the month and two hours before the sun at month's end. It is the brightest 'star' in the morning sky and shines with a steady golden light. A small telescope shows its disk and its four 'Galilean' moons.

*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 2017


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 Mars 0.0 degrees north of Neptune
January 2 Venus 1.8 degrees south of the Moon
January 3 Neptune 0.4 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 3 Mars 0.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 4 Earth at perihelion
January 5 Moon first quarter
January 6 Uranus 3.1 degrees north of the Moon
January 7 Pluto at conjunction
January 8 Mercury stationary
January 9 Aldebaran 0.4 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 10 Moon at perigee
January 11 Moon northern most declination (18.9 degrees)
January 12 Moon full
January 12 Venus greatest elong E(47)
January 12 Venus 0.4 degrees north of Neptune
January 15 Regulus 0.8 degrees north of the Moon Occn
January 19 Jupiter 2.5 degrees south of the Moon
January 19 Mercury greatest elong W(24)
January 19 Moon last quarter
January 22 Moon at apogee
January 24 Saturn 3.6 degrees south of the Moon
January 25 Moon southern most declination (-18.9 degrees)
January 26 Mercury 3.7 degrees south of the Moon
January 26 Pluto 2.7 degrees south of the Moon
January 28 Moon new
January 29 Mercury 1.2 degrees south of Pluto
January 30 Neptune 0.2 degrees south of the Moon Occn
January 31 Venus 3.9 degrees north 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.
  • perigee: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Earth
  • perihelion: Nearest point in the orbit of a body orbiting the Sun