Axarquia, Costa del Sol, Andalucia, Spain

PLANETARY MOTIONS IN 2009 and 2008

During 2009:
Mercury 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.

Date Event
January 04 Greatest Elongation East - 19║ - mag -0.7
January 20 Inferior Conjunction
February 13 Greatest Elongation West - 26║ - mag +0.1
March 31 Superior Conjunction
April 26 Greatest Elongation East - 20║ - mag -1.2
May 18 Inferior Conjunction
June 13 Greatest Elongation West - 23║ - mag -0.9
July 14 Superior Conjunction
August 24 Greatest Elongation East - 27║ - mag -0.2
September 20 Inferior Conjunction
October 06 Greatest Elongation West - 18║ - mag -0.8
November 05 Superior Conjunction
December 18 Greatest Elongation East - 20║ - mag -0.3

Venus 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.

Date Event
January 14 Greatest Elongation East - 47║ - mag -4.4
February 19 Greatest Brilliancy - mag -4.6
March 27 Inferior Conjunction - mag -4.1
May 02 Greatest Brilliancy - mag -4.5
June 14 Greatest Elongation West - 46║ - mag -4.2

Mars 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 motion.

December 20 1st Stationary Point - Leo - mag -0.6

Jupiter 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.

Date Event
January 24 Conjunction - mag -1.9
June 15 1st Stationary Point - Aquarius/Capricorn - mag -2.6
August 14 Opposition - Capricorn - mag -2.9
October 13 2nd Stationary Point - mag -2.6

Saturn 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.

Date Event
March 08 Opposition - Leo - mag +0.5
May 13 2nd Stationary Point - mag +0.9
September 17 Conjunction

Uranus 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.

Date Event
March 13 Conjunction
July 01 1st Stationary Point
September 17 Opposition - Pisces - mag +5.7
December 02 2nd Stationary Point

Neptune 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.

Date Event
February 12 Conjunction
May 29 1st Stationary Point
August 17 Opposition - mag +7.8
November 04 2nd Stationary Point

During 2008:
MercuryMercury
, 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.

Date Event
January 22 Greatest Elongation East - 19║ - mag -0.5
February 06 Inferior Conjunction
March 03 Greatest Elongation West - 27║ - mag +0.1
April 16 Superior Conjunction
May 14 Greatest Elongation East - 22║ - mag +0.5
June 07 Inferior Conjunction
July 01 Greatest Elongation West - 22║ - mag +0.5
July 29 Superior Conjunction
September 11 Greatest Elongation East - 27║ - mag +0.2
October 06 Inferior Conjunction
October 22 Greatest Elongation West - 18║ - mag -0.6
November 25 Superior Conjunction

Venus 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.


Date Event
June 09 Superior Conjunction - mag -3.9

Mars 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.

Date Event
December 05 Conjunction - mag +1.3

Jupiter 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.

Date Event
July 09 Opposition - mag -2.7

Saturn 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

Date Event
February 24 Opposition - mag +0.2
September 04 Conjunction - mag +0.8

Uranus 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.

Date Event
March 05 Conjunction - mag +5.9
September 07 Opposition - mag +5.7

Neptune 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.

Date Event
February 11 Conjunction - mag +8.0
August 15th Opposition - mag +7.8

Planets:
Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
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