Status of solar system objects

One way of saying where to find solar system objects in the sky is to describe them by what constellation they're in, which way they're moving, and whether they're up in the evening or morning.

Planets have been sometimes described as morning stars or evening stars depending on whether they're up in the morning or evening. Being a morning object doesn't always mean a planet can't be seen in the evening. It may rise a few minutes or a few hours after the sun sets. It is called a morning object if it is still up when the sun rises. Likewise, an evening object may still be up in the morning hours. A planet that is up when the sun sets may itself set a few hours or a few minutes before the sun rises.

When a planet is moving eastward against the background of distant stars, it's said to be in direct motion. To go westward is retrograde motion. Retrograde is thought of as going backward because a planet spends most of its time going the other way. Retrograde motion is an illusion, of course, similar to the way another vehicle may appear to be going backward on a highway as one passes it.

When an outer planet is in retrograde motion, it is usually on the opposite side of the sun as the earth. The earth is actually moving in one direction faster than the planet is moving in the other. Against the background of very distant stars, the other planet appears to be moving backward. When an inner planet is between the sun and Earth, the inner planet will appear to be going backward because it is moving faster than the earth in the same direction as the earth. For several days just before until just after a planet's apparent direction changes, it may appear to slow down so much it's holding still. At such times, it may be described as stationary.

Knowing which constellation a planet is in can help find it easily. The constellations listed for the objects here are those recognized by the International Astronomical Union.

You can check the status of the sun, moon, and planets by clicking their names in the links below. A list will appear in the frame on the right. For planets, on the date given, you will see whether the object is primarily an evening or morning object at that time, whether the object is in direct or retrograde motion, and the constellation it's in. The information will be the same until the next date listed. For the moon, motion isn't given, because the moon's motion is always direct. For the sun, neither motion nor morning/evening status are given, because the sun's motion is always direct and morning/evening status doesn't apply.