What’s that bright star near the Moon?

It’s a commonly asked question. As the Moon makes its regular orbital journey around the sky, it sometimes appears close to a particularly bright “star”.

Venus shines brightly above the crescent Moon in the evening sky. Image credit: Paul Sutherland

Often these stars are not stars at all but planets. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all appear close to the Moon. That is because their orbits around the Sun are on a similar plane to the Moon’s around the Earth.

These planets also appear much brighter than most stars. Apart from the planets, a handful of first-magnitude stars – some of the brightest in the sky – also lie along the path travelled by the Moon, and so you might spot one close to it.

Occasionally, the Moon will actually pass in front of and hide a star or planet. Such an event is known as an occultation.

Here is a list of dates when the Moon may be seen close to a bright planet or star.


2020

January 28: Venus


February 3: Aldebaran

February 9: Regulus

February 14: Spica

February 17: Antares

The crescent Moon was close to Jupiter on October 31st, 2019. Image credit: Paul Sutherland

February 18: Mars

February 19: Jupiter

February 20: Saturn

February 27: Venus


March 2: Aldebaran

March 8: Regulus

March 11: Spica

March 15: Antares

March 18: Jupiter and Mars

March 19: Saturn

March 28: Venus

March 29: Aldebaran

Related: What to see in the night sky this month


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