After comet Neowise and the Perseid meteor shower thrilled skywatchers in July and August, September has five planets visible in the night sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will all be visible this month, although some will be more visible than others. From the laboratory to your email...
Sweet skywatching possibilities continue to abound this month, as Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus all show brightly. In the September sky, there's a planetary party going on. They're Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, and Pluto.
Saturn is usually the last planet to set fire to the twilight tonight, but it won't be able to be seen with the naked eye. The best time to see it is when the moon is out of its way, so go outside around midnight and look up at the sky to see its rings and moons.
Jupiter is probably the most beautiful of them all and will be easy to spot with the naked eye. It's beauty lies in its diversity: There are four large moons orbiting Jupiter (Europa, Ganymede, Io, and Metis).
Mars is always a surprise package in the night sky, even if you know where to look. It's easy to find because it's the brightest object after the Sun itself. And although it doesn't completely disappear under a thick layer of clouds, it's difficult to see through haze.
Neptune is the outermost planet from our Earth and the second-brightest object next to the Sun.
Here, we give a timetable that shows some of the finest planet viewing periods as well as where to look to observe them. On June 10, Mercury forms an inferior conjunction with the sun and enters the morning sky. It can be seen for several weeks after this, as it travels south along the ecliptic (its orbit around the sun). Venus also goes below the horizon at this time, but it can be seen again after midnight on July 2.
The brightest object in the night sky is always Earth, which lights up our world like no other body in space. But besides gazing at our home planet, there are many other ways to enjoy astronomy. You don't need a telescope to see stars with the naked eye, and you don't need a planetarium program to find out what's going on in the cosmos around us. All you need is an open mind and a desire to learn more about the universe.
Planets are most visible during certain times of the year when they're not directly opposite the sun in the sky. During these "planet seasons," you have a better chance of spotting them with the naked eye or using a small telescope. The best times to see planets are between April and October, depending on which one you want to see first. Jupiter is usually the first planet to be visible after sunset, while Saturn stays above the horizon all night long.