Look up

Look up

Weekend planet watch

As another, hopefully sunny, weekend rolls around it’s a great time to get out and spot some planets.

Look towards the glow of sunrise to find Jupiter with the moon. Museum Victoria/Stellarium

Around an hour before sunrise, you can catch Jupiter with the moon. The moon is a thin waning crescent. It is a few days shy of being a new moon, which occurs on September 24. This is when the moon joins the sun in the daytime sky.

On Saturday night, around an hour after sunset, look towards the west and you’ll find the planet Mercury. It sits just to left of the bright star Spica, easily the most prominent star within the constellation of Virgo.

Mercury pairs up with Spica after sunset on Saturday September 20. Museum Victoria/Stellarium

Spica consists of two stars, so close together they take only four days to orbit each other. Even research telescopes struggle to separate the two stars.

Spica sits very close to the ecliptic, which is the path that the sun appears to follow over the course of a year. The planets, along with the moon, are also found near the ecliptic and therefore it’s not unusual to see them pass by Spica.

Above Mercury is Saturn and shifting your gaze even higher in the west, towards the constellation of Scorpius, you’ll see the red planet Mars.

Mars is drifting towards its rival, the red supergiant star Antares. This Greek name means ‘like Mars’ and the two objects do appear quite similar when seen together in the night sky.

Looking towards the south-west Mars is found near the constellation of Scorpius. Museum Victoria/Stellarium

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