(Picture – the Moon and Jupiter in conjunction, a few days ago. Jupiter – little dot on the left).
The skies are just brilliant these days. If the weather allows it, depending where you are located in the world, you can see at night all of the 5 planets that are visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The ability to see all of them in one night is rare, because usually some them of reside too close to the Sun,, but these days the case is that all of them are available to see, only it would take some effort to stay awake during the night for that…
What is described here is applicable to everywhere in the world!
So – to begin we need to know where we can find the planets of our solar system in the skies –where to look for them.
All the planets of the solar system travel in a thin strip of the skies which is the same path in which the Sun and Moon make their daily/nightly journey from East to West. So if you know where the Sun rises and sets, and the line it depicts by its journey from East to West – you’d know where the ecliptic plane of our skies is – which is the plane in which all the planets of our solar system reside. You won’t see them in the north or in the south – rather on the path between the eastern and western horizons. The Moon is also travelling the same path, in a very quick journey. As it seems to us, the Moon will reside in different astrological sign/house/region of the skies every 2.5 days. This is why we see the New Moon rise in the West and the Full Moon rise in the east. But if we follow its nightly path we will see that, just as the Sun, from where it rises it continues west till it sets, and that the path it takes is the path of the ecliptic – which is the path that goes from East to West. This is also why from time to time we will see the Moon in conjunction (very close) to one of the planets – as it will be TONIGHT . As the Moon is in conjunction to Mars – look for the planet Mars near the Moon tonight! If you see it, look at it also tomorrow to understand how fast the Moon travels away from Mars in only one night…
( By the way – the ecliptic is called so because this is the area of the skies the Sun and Moon and all the planets travel, and there, from time to time, they “cover” each other (as it would seem from Earth) to create an eclipse).
So after we have established the general location of the planets we are looking for, lets zoom in to see which planet we can see where and when during the night –
The first of our solar-system’s plantes to rise in the East these days is Jupiter. Jupiter is visible shortly after sunset, in the East. During the night beautiful, huge and bright Jupiter – that can easily be mistaken for a satellite, airplane or spaceship – slowly rises to mid heaven and then from around midnight onwards starts to sink to the West, till it sets in the morning.
Alsoabout 3 hours after sunset –the red planet Mars will be the one to rise in the East, which TONIGHT will be easy to detect, because it is close to the Moon but a bit after it to the East. Tomorrow night (Monday) Mars will rise a bit before the Moon, preceeding it and more to the West of it.
Saturn is the third planet to rise in the East, cose to midnight. Saturn is similar to Mars in the way it looks – a bit dim and reddish. Venus and Mars will rise closer to dawn, very close to each other. Venus is huge and beautiful and Mercury much smaller. By the way – it is rare to see Mercury in the skies because it is the closest planet to the Sun, and therefore hard to observe. . But it is seen these days.
All of the planets rise in the East and proceed from there up in the skies to mid-heaven and later set in the West, just like the Sun.
Enjoy your night!! Enjoy the show!!