There’s a special magic when night falls; as the sun moves to the other side of the world and the wonders of creation are revealed to us.
With a little time and practice anyone can easily start getting to recognize the different planets of our solar system, and even the zodiac’s constellations, clearly seen by the naked eye.
This effort is well-rewarded, as by getting acquainted with the night’s sky – one can slowly start hearing the wonderful music of the stars and start grasping the fact of our being in a marvelous, bright and rich universe.
So – to begin locating the different planets, remember:
So, let’s start!
Right after sunset you can see a small “star” not far from the place the sun has just set. This is small Mercury, which is usually not visible in the skies, but is now starting to be seen. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and that is the reason it would always appear next to it, most of the time too close to see (because of day-light).
Mercury will disappear to the west shortly after sunset, so you need to be very accurate with your timing in order to spot it!
Further to the East, Jupiter is clearly seen as the brightest star at this time of the year. You can easily see the two major stars by the constellation Gemini close to it, as Jupiter is in Gemini these days. If you’ll follow it you’d see it slowly, night after night, moving away from the Gemini constellation and moving slowly towards the Cancer constellation.
Because of the Earth’s own movement, Gemini and Jupiter will seem to set in the west about 2 hours after sunset. In about a month they will stop appearing in the night skies, to later re-appear as morning-stars to the east…
To the East, right where the full moon rises, one can see two red stars appearing in the evening – the first – bright and big – is Mars. The second, further to the east and much smaller and dimmer – is Saturn – the planet furthest away from Earth in our solar system seen to the naked eye.
Mars and Saturn will travel the skies during the night, from east to west. If one follows them for the next few months one will easily see Mars getting closer and closer to Saturn, till full conjunction.
And for the early risers – Venus is now the bright morning star, appearing in the east about 2 hours before sunrise.