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.

The Moon and Venus pictured close in the sky on March 28, from Walmer Kent. Image credit: Paul Sutherland

2020

May 24: Mercury and Venus

May 26: Pollux

May 29: Regulus


June 1: Spica

June 5: Antares

June 9: Jupiter and Saturn

June 13: Mars

June 25: Regulus

June 29: Spica


July 2: Antares

July 6: Jupiter and Saturn

July 12: Mars

Related: What to see in the night sky this month


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