Mercury, the Solar System┤s smallest planet, moves from the morning sky to evening sky
several times a year. As it never strays far from the Sun, it can be hard to find in the Sun┤s glare.
From the northern hemisphere, the most favourable evening appearance of 2009 is during April and the most favourable morning
apparition is during early October.
||Greatest Elongation East - 19║ - mag -0.7|
||Greatest Elongation West - 26║ - mag +0.1|
||Greatest Elongation East - 20║ - mag -1.2|
||Greatest Elongation West - 23║ - mag -0.9|
||Greatest Elongation East - 27║ - mag -0.2|
||Greatest Elongation West - 18║ - mag -0.8|
||Greatest Elongation East - 20║ - mag -0.3|
Venus, the dazzling morning or evening star, outshines all the other stars and planets
in the night sky. The planet begins 2009 completely dominating the western evening sky for several hours after sunset. Following inferior conjunction
in March, Venus becomes a bright morning object in the eastern sky before sunrise where it remains until mid-December.
Phases of Venus in 2009: Venus starts the year in the evening sky approaching half phase. It appears as a rapidly
thinning cescent during late January, February and early March, passing through inferior conjunction on 27th March. It reappears in the morning sky as a very
thin crescent which rapidly increases until Venus reaches half phase again in early June. For the rest of the year the planet displays a gibbous phase, although
the apparent size of the disc decreases as the distance from Earth increases.
||Greatest Elongation East - 47║ - mag -4.4|
||Greatest Brilliancy - mag -4.6|
||Inferior Conjunction - mag -4.1|
||Greatest Brilliancy - mag -4.5|
||Greatest Elongation West - 46║ - mag -4.2|
Mars in 2009 unusually has neither an opposition nor conjunction. There was a conjunction
in December 2008 and the next opposition occurs in January 2010. Following conjunction, the planet is still too close to the Sun to
be visible until February when it begins to be observable from the tropics and southern latitudes as a morning object moving eastwards
in Capricorn low above the eastern horizon at +1.2 magnitude.
In June Mars, now at +1.1 magnitude, becomes visible to northern observors
low above the horizon for two hours before sunrise but is still difficult to detect. Magnitude increases, as does the length of time visible prior
to sunrise, moving thrugh Pisces, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer to Leo by December when it has brightened to -0.7 magnitude and is visible from
late evening onwards. The first stationary point, prior to opposition, is on the 20th December after which the planet follows a retrograde
||1st Stationary Point - Leo - mag -0.6|
Jupiter begins 2009 in Sagittarius but quickly moves into Capricorn by January 4th where it stays for rest of the year.
It passes through conjunction in January and is too close to the Sun for reasonable
observation until February when it becomes a morning object at -1.9 magnitude. The planet becomes increasingly easier to locate as it reaches
opposition at -2.9 magnitude in mid-August and is visible throughout the night from anywhere on Earth. After opposition brightness fades to -2.2
magnitude by the end of the year.
||Conjunction - mag -1.9|
||1st Stationary Point - Aquarius/Capricorn - mag -2.6|
||Opposition - Capricorn - mag -2.9|
||2nd Stationary Point - mag -2.6|
Saturn begins 2009 at +0.8 magnitude moving retrograde through Leo. Reaching opposition in March and brightening
to +0.5 magnitude, Saturn moves to its
second stationary point in May and then resumes a direct motion into Virgo on the 2nd September where the planet remains for the rest of the year.
During 2009, Saturn is reasonably well placed for telescopic viewing until July. Observers at mid-northern latitudes can find Saturn fairly high in
the evening sky from January through to May, after which it is visible low in the sky and/or in bright twilight.
Saturn's spectacular ring system remains nearly edge-on to Earth throughout this apparition, appearing as little more than a bright line through most backyard
telescopes. The rings are tilted less than 1║ away from Earth until mid-January, opening to a maximum of 3║ in March, after which they begin to close
again towards August 10th when the Sun passes through the ring plane from south to north and September 4th when Earth also crosses through to north.
Saturn┤s moons tend to be hidden in the glare of the rings when they are wide open and, with the exception of 8th-magnitude Titan, all of Saturn's moons are
fairly faint and easily confused with background stars. Moreover, the innermost moons, with orbital periods of just one or two day days, swap positions at a
furious rate making it difficult to identify them. From Earth-based telescopes, ring plane crossings have been the best times to view Saturn┤s extensive family
of moons and to discover new moons but on this occasion the Sun will be only 11║ east which is too close for good observation.
||Opposition - Leo - mag +0.5|
||2nd Stationary Point - mag +0.9|
Uranus begins the year with a direct motion in Aquarius and moves into Pisces by early April. The planet moves through
conjunction in March to its first stationary point in July, after which its retrograde motion takes the planet through opposition in September and back into
Aquarius on October 18th.
In 2009 from the northern hemisphere, Uranus is best viewed in late summer and
early autumn. It is in opposition on September 17, when it moves from the morning sky into the evening sky. Although it may be seen with the naked eye in a very
dark sky, usually binoculars are required. Its angular diameter is less than 4 arcseconds.
||1st Stationary Point|
||Opposition - Pisces - mag +5.7|
||2nd Stationary Point|
Neptune, spending another entire year in the constellation of Capricorn, has a direct motion until going retrograde in May
through opposition in August and resuming direct motion in November. The planet is best viewed during the summer and
is in opposition on August 17th when it moves from the morning sky into the evening sky. Binoculars or a small telescope are needed to spot the planet which has
an angular diameter of about 2 seconds of arc. After conjunction in February, Neptune is still too close to the Sun for observation until mid to late March.
During quite a bit of 2009, Neptune and Jupiter will be close to each other in the sky making Jupiter, which is easy to spot by eye, a useful starting point
for locating Neptune. The two planets are less than 3║ apart from April 25th to August 12th and again from December 1st until January 7th 2010.
There will be 3 instances when the separation of the planets drops to a minimum. On May 27th, in the morning sky, they will be about 23' apart - three-quarters
of the diameter of the full Moon. Then after Jupiter starts its retrograde motion they will close up again to be just over half a degree apart on July 10th and 11th,
visible late evening / early morning. Later in the year, on December 21st, they will be visible in the evening sky when Jupiter is moving forward again and will
overtake Neptune again at a distance of just over half a degree.
||1st Stationary Point|
||Opposition - mag +7.8|
||2nd Stationary Point|
from the northern hemisphere during 2008, is visible in the morning sky in March, April, July and early November.
The late year appearance is best because the planet is higher above the horizon. In the evening, Mercury is seen in January,
May, late August, September and mid-December with the May appearance best.
||Greatest Elongation East - 19║ - mag -0.5|
||Greatest Elongation West - 27║ - mag +0.1|
||Greatest Elongation East - 22║ - mag +0.5|
||Greatest Elongation West - 22║ - mag +0.5|
||Greatest Elongation East - 27║ - mag +0.2|
||Greatest Elongation West - 18║ - mag -0.6|
Venus begins 2008 in the morning sky, low in the east shortly before sunrise.
It will disappear from view in early May. In mid-July Venus will reappear in the evening sky, where it stay for the rest of the year.
||Superior Conjunction - mag -3.9|
Mars is just a week past opposition as 2008 begins, dominating the night sky. It is well placed for
observation with a telescope until mid-February, when its diameter drops below 10 arcseconds. In July it becomes hidden in the Sun┤s
glare, re-emerging in the morning sky early in 2009.
||Conjunction - mag +1.3|
Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System, is a commanding presence in the night sky for much of 2008.
Looking like an intense large star, shining brighter than anything else in the night sky except the Moon and Venus, it climbs into view in January┤s
pre-dawn sky. It rises earlier as the months go by, and moves into the evening sky in spring. At opposition in early July, Jupiter appears brightest
for the year and remains visible all night. Late in the year it is visible only in the evening sky, dropping lower each night.
||Opposition - mag -2.7|
Saturn spends another year in the constellation of Leo and can be viewed in the evening sky until August, when it
approaches conjunction with the Sun. From October to the end of 2008, it will be visible in the morning sky. The ring system will vary in tilt between
1 and 10 degrees this year. The maximum possible tilt is 27 degrees, which last occurred in 2003. The rings will appear edge-on in 2009. At opposition,
the angular diameter will be 20.1 arcseconds. A small telescope will show the rings and one or more of Saturn┤s many moons
||Opposition - mag +0.2|
||Conjunction - mag +0.8|
Uranus spends another year in the constellation of Aquarius and is best viewed in late summer and early autumn. It is in
opposition on September 7, when it moves from the morning sky into the evening sky. Although it may be seen with the naked eye in a very dark sky, usually
binoculars are required. Its angular diameter is less than 4 arcseconds.
||Conjunction - mag +5.9|
||Opposition - mag +5.7|
Neptune, again spending the year in the constellation of Capricorn, is best viewed during the summer and is in opposition on August 15 when
it moves from the morning sky into the evening sky. Binoculars or a small telescope will be required to see it. The angular diameter is about 2 seconds of arc.
||Conjunction - mag +8.0|
||Opposition - mag +7.8|