Monthly Skywatchers' Page

For London and the UK

Sun And Nine Planets
The Sun and eight major planets (plus KBO Pluto) to scale. Earth is third planet from the left.


Introduction

The location of the stars and constellations can be learnt throughout a single year from books, mobile phone applications or planetarium software. Each month of the year, the same stars are visible from a given location. Different stars and constellations are visible as the year progresses. For example, in London, the constellation of Orion is always visible in the evenings of winter months of January and February. Scorpius is visible in the summer months of June and July around midnight.

The planets resemble stars except that, generally, they do not twinkle. Unlike the stars whose patterns are fixed, planets wander through the sky changing their positions amongst the starry background. This means that their periods of visibility change as the relative position of the Earth, Sun and planet vary. In one year Mars may be visible in August at midnight. In another year it may be behind the Sun and invisible from Earth during August.

This page gives the details of visibility for the five naked eye planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also gives information about comets, meteor showers and non-regular phenomena like eclipses, transits and occultations.

The Observers' Glossary explains the terms used. Alternatively run the mouse cursor over terms in maroon.


The descriptions below are for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, especially London and the United Kingdom.
The planetary information is valid for any location at the same or similar Latitude (51.5°N).
Note that a degree in the sky is twice the apparent diameter of the Moon.

All times on this page are London (UK) times. This is normally GMT (Greenwich Mean Time also known as Universal Time).
In the United Kingdom, the clocks go forward by one hour for British Summer Time (BST) between mid March and late October.
A 24 hour clock is used so that 7pm is written 19:00.


January 2018

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury passes through superior conjunction on 17th.

The planet may be glimpsed below the more brilliant Venus at the very end of the month.

Venus

Venus

Venus passed through superior conjunction on 9 January.

By the end of the month the planet may be seen low in the West after sunset in the twilight.

Mars

Mars

Mars rises around 3am during the month.

The planet is moving through Scorpius and can be seen to the left of the more brilliant Jupiter. On 10th Mars can be seen above the red star, Antares ("rival of Mars").

On 9th the planet moves into Ophiuchus and will be below the Moon.

Mars brightens slightly through the month as it approaches the Earth.

The Moon and Mars - with Jupiter
Looking South at 5:40am on 9th.
Mars is below the Moon and to the left of the brighter Jupiter.
The stars of Scorpius can be seen below Mars.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter rises six hours before the Sun among the stars of Libra throughout the month.

The planet is close to the Moon on 8th.

Through a small telescope, the planet's four large moons can easily be seen.

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn rises shortly before the Sun and is difficult to see as it is low in the twilight.

Look for the planet to the left of Mars around 6am. On the 11th the thin crescent Moon will be above the planet.

Sun

The Sun

During February, the Sun continues to move northwards causing the length of day to increase from 9 hours 10 minutes to 10 hours 50 minutes, an increase of one hour and forty minutes.

The time of midday is at its latest this month, around 10th. This has the effect of moving the daylight into the post Noon part of the day. The mornings remain darker than the evenings. For example, on 10th, the Sun rises at 07:23, giving 4 hours 37 minutes of daylight before 12:00. On the same day the Sun sets at 17:06. This gives 5 hours and 6 minutes of daylight after 12:00. This is 29 minutes more daylight in the afternoon than in the morning.

The Sun begins the month in Capricornus and enters Aquarius on 17th.

Note that the Zodiac dates do not tie in with astrology as astrologers are using dates from two thousand years ago.

Date Sunrise Midday Sunset Length of Day Sun's Noon Altitude Notes
01-Feb
07:38
12:14
16:49
09h 10m
21.5°
 
02-Feb
07:37
12:14
16:51
09h 14m
21.8°
 
03-Feb
07:35
12:14
16:53
09h 17m
22.1°
 
04-Feb
07:34
12:14
16:55
09h 21m
22.4°
 
05-Feb
07:32
12:14
16:57
09h 24m
22.7°
 
06-Feb
07:30
12:14
16:58
09h 28m
23.0°
 
07-Feb
07:29
12:14
17:00
09h 31m
23.3°
Morning Half Moon - 5pm sunset
08-Feb
07:27
12:14
17:02
09h 35m
23.6°
Moon close to Jupiter
09-Feb
07:25
12:14
17:04
09h 38m
23.9°
Moon close to Mars
10-Feb
07:23
12:14
17:06
09h 42m
24.3°
 
11-Feb
07:22
12:14
17:08
09h 46m
24.6°
Moon close to Saturn
12-Feb
07:20
12:14
17:09
09h 49m
24.9°
 
13-Feb
07:18
12:14
17:11
09h 53m
25.3°
 
14-Feb
07:16
12:14
17:13
09h 57m
25.6°
 
15-Feb
07:14
12:14
17:15
10h 00m
25.9°
New Moon at 21:05 - Partial Solar Eclipse (not UK) - 10 hour day
16-Feb
07:12
12:14
17:17
10h 04m
26.3°
 
17-Feb
07:10
12:14
17:19
10h 08m
26.6°
Sun "enters" Aquarius
18-Feb
07:08
12:14
17:20
10h 12m
27.0°
 
19-Feb
07:06
12:14
17:22
10h 15m
27.3°
 
20-Feb
07:04
12:14
17:24
10h 19m
27.7°
 
21-Feb
07:02
12:14
17:26
10h 23m
28.1°
 
22-Feb
07:00
12:13
17:28
10h 27m
28.4°
7am sunrise
23-Feb
06:58
12:13
17:29
10h 31m
28.8°
Evening Half Moon
24-Feb
06:56
12:13
17:31
10h 35m
29.1°
 
25-Feb
06:54
12:13
17:33
10h 39m
29.5°
 
26-Feb
06:52
12:13
17:35
10h 42m
29.9°
 
27-Feb
06:50
12:13
17:37
10h 46m
30.3°
 
28-Feb
06:48
12:13
17:38
10h 50m
30.6°
 

Moon

The Moon

The Moon will be close to Jupiter on 8th

The Moon will be close to Mars on 9th.

The Moon will be close to Saturn on 11th.

This month there will be no Full Moon.

Sun

Solar Eclipse

A partial eclipse of the Sun occurs on 15th. This will be visible in the extreme south of South America and most of Antarctica.

No part of this eclipse is visible in the UK.


It is easy to depend on astronomy or CMMS software to perform daily computational activities and to keep track of data. Astronomy enthusiasts can choose from a wide variety of software options, while facility managers may have fewer options if they require CMMS software for their business.


Next Month

Jupiter, Mars and Saturn in the morning. Venus and Mercury in the evening. Equinox.


All times on this page are London (UK) times.

Sources: Astronomy Now magazine, Cybersky, Starry Night Pro, USA Naval Observatory and UK Nautical Almanac Office.

© 2018 KryssTal
All sky images by Starry Night Pro Plus 6
Eclipse predictions (maps) courtesy of Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC


Books From Amazon.co.uk


Observers' Glossary

An explanation of the terms used by sky observers. Includes descriptions of how the objects of the solar system behave in the sky as seen from Earth (especially the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes).


KryssTal Related Pages

Tables and data about the Sun, Earth, Moon, planets, asteroids and comets. All terms used are explained.

An account of how various properties of stars can be measured by studying starlight. Includes brightness, distance, luminosity, temperature, mass, radius, density and an introduction to the H-R Diagram.

A table containing a list of the 20 brightest stars in the Earth's sky. Explanations of all the associated terms like magnitude, spectral type and radial velocity.

A detailed account about eclipses, transits and occultations. These are irregular phenomena that can be observed in the sky. Includes eclipse trips around the world with photos and well as photos of recent transists of Mercury and Venus.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in space. Distances in space are represented by the time light takes to travel there.

An easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from believing Creation Myths to postulating the Inflationary Big Bang Theory. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people who broadened our understanding.

What do we mean by the words day, week, month, year? Who invented our calendar? When did the third millennium begin? The relation between time and astronomy.

The force that moves apples and planets. A short introduction to the ideas of Kepler and Newton that culminated with the theory of Universal Gravitation.

A look at the mathematics of a sphere with a section on sundials and the equation of time.


External Skywatching Links

These links will open in a separate window

StarDate Online
An excellent online skywatchers' magazine featuring detailed monthly information about astronomical events.

Astronomy Picture of the Day
A different image each day with an extensive archive and explanations.

Society for Popular Astronomy
Monthly planet and star gazing details with maps for young people.

Telescope House
A London based source of astronomical equipment, telescopes, software, maps and books.

Southern Sky Watch
Sky watchers information for the southern hemisphere.

Starry Night Pro
Superb planetarium software. Simulate the sky from anywhere on the Earth and any time.