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Starwatch: planets line up for Christmas

23 Dec 2018, 21:30 UTC
Starwatch: planets line up for Christmas NASA/JPL-Caltech

Throughout this week, the cold mornings will provide a beautiful sight to warm the heart about an hour before sunrise. In the days immediately surrounding Christmas, the three bright planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all line up in the south-eastern sky. Looking south-east around 07:00am, Venus and Jupiter will be unmistakable bright beacons that will instantly capture the attention. Mercury is more of a challenge. It will have risen about 15 minutes earlier and so a very clear south-eastern horizon will be needed to see it. Those with such a view, will see the planet appear in the brightening twilight sky. On Christmas Day, sunrise is at 08:05 GMT from London; 08:24 GMT from Manchester; 08:59 from Inverness. The chart shows the view later in the week, looking south at 07:00 GMT on 30 December. On this day, Mercury will have disappeared from view but the waning moon will be near the bright star Spica, and heading towards the planetary alignment. Watch the moon over the succeeding days to see it become a crescent as it heads towards the sun, reaching new moon on 6 January.

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