This is almost becoming a Christmas tradition for me; an elongation chart for the bright planets in 2016:
A high quality PDF version with much more information can be downloaded here.
The planets shown are Mercury (m), Venus (V), Mars (M), Jupiter (J) and Saturn (S).
This chart shows the positions of each planet relative to the Sun (middle) all through the year. The vertical axis represents the days and months of the year. The diagonal bands represent constellation boundaries. The wavy yellow band is a region close to the Sun in which it would be difficult to observe the planets. The wavy yellow line represents regions of the sky rendered invisible because of the proximity of the Sun. The shape of that wavy line explains, for example, why Mercury is easier to observe in the October morning sky than the September morning sky (even though it is further from the Sun in September). Also, the chart behaves like a game of PacMan; any planets reaching opposition 180 degrees west of the Sun wrap straight over to the evening sky on the far left. Think of this as being like an unwrapped cylinder!
Places where the lines intersect planetary conjunctions --- often beautiful (but not significant) events where the planets appear close together in the sky. There will be several notable conjunctions from August through to November 2016. Here are details of all the conjunctions potentially observable from the UK.
The numbers in the first column refer to the numbered conjunctions on the elongation chart.
Finally, the elongation chart was compiled in LaTeX and PSTricks using data from the JPL Planetary Dynamics website.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.