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This Week's Planet Roundup
6 years ago

Mercury, Venus, and Saturn form a diagonal line in the southeast when dawn begins to brighten, as shown at the top of this page. Venus is by far the brightest at magnitude –3.9. Look upper right of it for distant Saturn, magnitude +0.7. Look lower left of Venus for Mercury, magnitude –0.5. Mercury is having an excellent apparition through the first half of December. This diagonal line of three lengthens from 13° to 19° long this week.

Added bonus: Look upper right of the planet lineup for Spica, similar to Saturn at magnitude +1.0.

Mars (magnitude +1.2, in Sagittarius) remains low in the southwest in evening twilight. In a telescope it's just a tiny blob 4.4 arcseconds in diameter.

Jupiter at 3:33 UT Nov. 23, 2012
The Great Red Spot's side of Jupiter is busy indeed. Sky & Telescopeimaging editor Sean Walker shot this image with his 12.5-inch Newtonian reflector and DMK21AU618 planetary video camera on November 22nd. South is up. From upper left, note the orange ring of Oval BA, the tiny dark-red dot following it, the Great Red Spot in its white Red Spot Hollow, and the huge turbulence behind it roiling the South Equatorial Belt.

The South Temperate Belt is barely visible along some of its length but prominent on the following side of the Great Red Spot. Four white ovals dot the South South Temperate Belt. On the north side of the planet, the North Equatorial and North Temperate belts have become cleanly separated by the North Tropical Zone's return to whiteness. Blue festoons intrude into the bright Equatorial Zone. The satellite to the left is sulfur-colored Io.

S&T: Sean Walker


Jupiter (magnitude –2.8, in Taurus) is at opposition this week (opposite the Sun as seen from Earth). It rises around sunset, climbs the eastern sky in the evening, shines highest in the south around midnight, and sets in the west around sunrise. Orange Aldebaran is 5° to its lower right during evening. Above them are the Pleiades. In a telescope, Jupiter is big 48 arcseconds wide, essentially as large as ever appears.

Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Pisces) and Neptune (7.9, in Aquarius) are conveniently placed in the south right after dark. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Standard Time (EST) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 5 hours.

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