A New Year’s Eve Planet Conjunction

Robert Bigelow

On New Year’s Eve, the planet Neptune will appear 0.1 degrees north of the planet Mars. While Mars is visible to the unaided eye, you will need binoculars or a telescope to spot Neptune. The best time to observe them is as soon as the sky is completely dark, when they will appear highest in the sky. On December 31, that will happen a few minutes before 7:00 p.m. If the sky is clear, look for Mars in the southwest about 30 degrees above the horizon.

 

MarsFinder31Dec2016

Looking southwest from Salt Lake City, Utah at 7:00 p.m. MST on December 31, 2016

Neptune will appear just above and to the left of Mars in binoculars. Use the finder chart below to help identify it. If you are using a telescope, it is important to know that many astronomical telescopes produce an image that is up-side down. If that is true for your telescope, Neptune will appear below and to the right of Mars.

7x50 Binocular view of Mars and Neptune at 7:00 p.m. MST on December 31, 2016

7×50 Binocular view of Mars and Neptune at 7:00 p.m. MST on December 31, 2016

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