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The New Year begins with the closest planetary-planetary conjunction of 2017 as Mars passes just 1 arc minute south of Neptune, which corresponds to an apparent separation of just 1/30 the diameter of the full Moon. The planets will be visible in the evening sky just after sunset towards the west. At mag. +0.9, Mars can be easily spotted with the naked eye while Neptune (mag. +7.9) requires at least a pair of binoculars or a small telescope to be seen. Also located in the same region, providing nice viewing, is much more brilliant Venus (mag. -4.4) and the crescent Moon.

Moon, Venus and Mars 90 minutes after sunset on January 1st from mid-northern latitudes (credit:- stellarium/freestarcharts)

Once the sky is dark enough look at Mars through binoculars or a telescope and you should be able to spot Neptune close by. For comparison, Mars is 250 times brighter than Neptune and appears orange-red in colour while Neptune is pale blue. Of course this is a purely line of sight alignment. In reality, Neptune is more than 18 times distant than Mars.

Small telescope view of Mars and Neptune 90 minutes after sunset on January 1st from London, England. Separation = 0.3 degrees (credit:- stellarium/freestarcharts)

Later on January 13th, the second planetary-planetary of the year occurs when Venus passes 0.4 degrees north of Neptune.

Venus, Mars and Neptune during January 2017 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Venus, Mars and Neptune during January 2017 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)