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

July 2: Antares

July 6: Jupiter and Saturn

July 12: Mars


August 1: Jupiter

August 2: Saturn

August 10: Mars

August 13: Aldebaran

August 14: Venus

August 24: Jupiter

August 25: Saturn


September 5/6: Mars

September 10: Aldebaran

September 14: Venus

September 24: Jupiter

September 25: Saturn


October 2/3: Mars

October 6: Aldebaran

October 14: Venus

October 22: Jupiter

October 23: Saturn

October 29: Mars


November 2: Aldebaran

November 7: Pollux

November 9: Regulus

November 13: Venus

November 19: Jupiter and Saturn

November 25/26: Mars

November 30: Aldebaran


December 3: Pollux

December 6: Regulus

December 10: Spica

December 12: Venus

December 17: Jupiter and Saturn

December 23/24: Mars

December 27: Aldebaran

December 30/31: Pollux

Related: What to see in the night sky this month


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