Planet Five planets are being tracked here. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the five recognized everywhere as the naked eye planets. The information here is meant to help you identify the planets. This method is a bit old fashioned, but I like it. Sky watchers today can download free computer programs that show them exactly what the sky should look like at any given time. Those are great, but I like old fashioned methods too.

When It's Up Planets are sometimes referred to as evening or morning objects. Even though today we know they're not stars, they are sometimes still called evening stars or morning stars. When a planet is up when the sun sets, it's called an evening object. It may still be up after midnight. But it will be setting, if it hasn't already, by dawn. Just the opposite is the case with a morning object. That object will be up when the sun rises, but it won't be up right away when the sun sets. Depending on where it is, it may be up in the late evening sky.

The planets, except for Mercury and Venus, occasionally have times when they're up all night. The astronomer's term for this is opposition, because the planet is opposite the sun in the sky. When Mars is at opposition, it's rising at sunset and setting at sunrise. The words all night will appear here when an object is at opposition. Mercury and Venus don't reach opposition, because they're closer to the sun than the earth. They never get to be opposite the sun in our sky.

All the planets can be close to the sun in our sky. The astronomer's term for it is conjunction. Here, it's described as being up "all day".

Hours From Sun The naked eye planets follow paths across the sky that are pretty close to the path of the sun. That makes it easy to say that one rises an hour ahead of the sun or another sets three hours later than the sun. The figure given here will help you estimate where the object is. For example: if Mars is an evening object 4 hours from the sun, at sunset you'll find Mars in the same area of the sky where the sun was 4 hours before. Wait an hour and Mars will be where the sun was 3 hours before sunset.

Motion Usually, from night to night, you'll see the planets moving eastward compared to the stars around them. That's called direct motion. Another name for it is prograde motion. Sometimes, the planets appear to go westward. That's called retrograde motion.



Where are they now? planet finding guide
Planet
When It's Up
Hours From Sun
Motion
   Mercury
Daytimer
0.2
Eastward
   Venus
Morning
3.0
Eastward
   Mars
Evening
0.7
Eastward
   Jupiter
Evening
6.6
Eastward
   Saturn
Evening
11.3
Westward