How do you see the five planets?
This week (late March 2023), you can see five planets — Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars — lined up in the evening sky. Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome, Italy, showed them via telescope earlier today (March 29). To enjoy his presentation, watch the video below. In addition, you can see it in the sky, perhaps, if your sky conditions are very good, and if you have a sharp eye.
The planets lie along a gentle arc across the evening sky, shortly after sunset, following the ecliptic, or the sun’s path across the sky. Likewise, the moon and the planets also follow the path of the sun.
How do you see the planets? Go out around sunset and look west. You will easily see the brightest planet of all, Venus.
Then use binoculars to scan next to Venus for the planet Uranus.
Then aim your binoculars lower in the sky, closer to the point of sunset. This is where you will find Jupiter and Mercury.
Then look up in the sky – still looking along the ecliptic or ecliptic – for Mars.
virtual telescope Make a show of all five planets after sunset, on March 28, 2023.
Last chance to get a moon phase calendar! A few left. For sale now.
A guide to seeing the planets
Venus and Uranus. Of these five planets, Venus is the brightest and Uranus the weakest. These two are close to each other in the sky. The flower is easily visible to the eye. It will be the first “star” (real planet) to come into view. Uranus shines at +5.8 magnitude. This is theoretically visible to the eye. But, in practice, you’ll need dark skies and binoculars to find them. It’s about 1.5 degrees, or three moon widths, from Venus early this week. Uranus will be closest to Venus on Thursday, March 30th.
Jupiter and Mercury. Jupiter is the second brightest planet. But it is near sunset now and can only be seen in bright twilight. The bright twilight skies make Jupiter more difficult to find than it would be otherwise. But Jupiter can still be seen by eye, near sunset. And Mercury? It is fainter than Jupiter (though still brighter than most stars). But it’s also close to sunset. Start looking for the pair low on the western horizon, shortly after sunset. You’ll need clear skies and an unobstructed western view to capture them. Binoculars should help. They will only set about 30 minutes after sunset. So, when the sun goes down, the clock is ticking.
Mars, the fifth planet now in the evening sky, it was easy to find early this week, because it is not far from the moon on the sky’s dome. It’s the bright red light near the Moon on Tuesday evening, March 28, 2023. Mars is bright. It is brighter than most stars. It is obviously red in colour. Even after the Sun has moved away, you may be able to find Mars by its color, and by the fact that it doesn’t twinkle like the stars.
Some finder schemes
Visit stellarium.org for accurate views from your site.
Bottom line: You have a chance to see five planets tonight and the rest of this week. Charts and information here including where to watch it on the video.
For more sky events, visit EarthSky’s night sky guide.
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