December 2017 – Where to look for the planets

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Use the finder charts on this page to guide you to where to look for the planets in December 2017.

A few pointers:

  • All planets visible to the unaided eye look like stars. Planets visible to the unaided eye include Mercury, Venus, Earth (look down!), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
  • In a telescope, Uranus and Neptune are visible as tiny discs. The dwarf planet Pluto remains looking like a star in even the largest amateur telescope.
  • Stars are shown to magnitude 5 on the charts unless otherwise noted. This is a compromise between what you would see from the light polluted skies of a city (where you will see significantly less stars) and dark country skies (where you will see significantly more stars).
  • Unless otherwise noted, the finder charts are prepared for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The charts will be useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia.
  • Chart times are given in AEST or Australian Eastern Standard Time. Remember to change for ‘Summer Time’ if this is in force in your location.

1 December 2017 – Mercury and Saturn finder chart – Evening twilight sky

In theory, you may be able to see Mercury and Saturn ‘just’ at the start of December 2017. I would recommend a clear South West horizon and a pair of binoculars to assist your search. In reality, atmospheric absorption will likely rule out seeing Saturn at all. I have had better luck using photography rather than searching with binoculars in the past in these situations.

Mercury and Saturn finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.45 pm AEST / 8.45 pm AEDT on Friday 1 December 2017 for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Mercury and Saturn finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.45 pm AEST / 8.45 pm AEDT on Friday 1 December 2017 for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

25 December 2017 – Moon with labels – Evening twilight sky

Celebrating the Christmas present of a new telescope? With all the bright planets currently visible in the morning sky, you are going to have to ‘settle’ for the ever changing appearance of the Moon. It is pretty amazing. Just don’t be persuaded to look through your telescope at the Full Moon! You have been warned.

Mercury and Saturn finder chart. Chart prepared for 7.45 pm AEST / 8.45 pm AEDT on Friday 1 December 2017 for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

Moon with labels finder chart. Chart prepared for 8 pm AEST / 9 pm AEDT on Monday 25 December 2017 for the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (but will be also useful for elsewhere in Eastern Australia). Chart prepared using the highly recommended Sky Safari Pro tablet app. Used with permission.

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