Introduction: Locating the Planets in the Sky

Ever since humans have laid their eyes upon the evening sky, we have been mystified with the wonders that it holds. Among these wonders are those that truly stand out, like a brilliant flame, they are the solar system's five brightest planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These planets are noteworthy due to the fact they can be seen for most of the year with the unaided eye. Before digging in, it is helpful to know that not every planet will be available in a single night or day. This is due to the planets location in reference to Earth's and the Sun.


A clear night sky.

A telescope, or binoculars (optional).

Step 1: When Can You View the Planets?

Most of the planets will be visible to the naked eye at one point or another during the year. However, due to the orbits of the planets around the sun, they can appear either during the day or night and may not be visible as they are drowned out by the light of our Sun. Fortunately, there are many tools available online keep track of the planets' visibility. One such tool can be found at:

Also, it may be harder to find the objects in the sky depending on the amount of light pollution.

Step 2: How to Tell What Is a Planet and What Is a Star?

Since the planets are much closer to Earth than any other star, besides the Sun, the planets will appear much brighter and may have an appearance like a disk instead of a point. They will usually be the first thing you spot in the sky as the Sun sets, or they will be the last thing you see in the morning sky as the sun rises.

Step 3: Locating Mercury.

During the morning, Mercury will appear in the eastern portion of the sky. It will rise (and set) about an hour before the Sun does. Because of this, the horizon must not be obstructed. Mercury will appear as a bright object with a yellowish hue.

Step 4: Locating Venus.

It will appear with a brilliant, silvery light. In fact, Venus generally appears so bright, that many people will think they are seeing a UFO, or think they are seeing the remnants of a supernova.

Step 5: Locating Mars.

Mars usually appears as the third brightest object in the sky, behind the Moon and Venus. Mars doesn't have much of a distinguishing color, rather, it appear as a bright object. The brightness of Mars will visibly change as you track it from day to day.

Step 6: Locating Jupiter.

Jupiter will be visible in the eastern horizon, before dawn. It will have a whitish-silvery glow.

Step 7: Locating Saturn.

Saturn will have a yellowish, twinkling glow. Note: You will not be able to see Saturn's rings with the naked eye. You will need a telescope to view them.