There comes a time in many elementary school students’ academic careers when they ask their parents to drive them to the local craft store and purchase several styrofoam spheres of varying sizes. The real magic begins back at home, where, thanks to some paint and other materials, the styrofoam balls are transformed into the planets of our solar system.
As realistic as those creations were, this month we have the opportunity to see the five bright planets in our solar system — no binoculars or telescope needed. Here’s where and when to look, and how to spot the planets.
Editor’s Note: You’ll need to be in the Northern Hemisphere to catch these planets in November.
Which planets will be visible?
Throughout the month of November, we’ll be able to feast our naked eyes on the five bright planets of the solar system: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus. According to EarthSky these are considered the “bright” planets because they can be seen without instruments, and are the ones humans have been monitoring for thousands of years.
So why are they all out in November? EarthSky explains:
It just so happens that the November evening planets (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) are superior planets, planets that orbit the sun outside Earth’s orbit. And it just so happens that the November morning planets (Mercury and Venus) are inferior planets, planets that orbit the sun inside Earth’s orbit.
Depending where you live, you may have seen the skies light up with fireworks over the weekend. But this week we’ll be treated to a different type of (non-political) light show: the Northern Taurid meteor shower. While it technically started in October, the shower will peak this week — specifically...Read more
How to find the planets
Three of the planets are best seen in the evening, while the other two are easiest to spot in the morning. The good news is that you don’t have to stay up late to get a chance to see them all.
At dusk, Mars and Jupiter will become visible. Mars is what looks like the brightest “star” in the eastern half of sky, with Jupiter as its equivalent in the west. As it gets a bit darker, look towards Jupiter — specifically, about 5 degrees to the east of the planet (which is about the width of two fingers at arm’s length from the eye) — to see Saturn, EarthSky explains.
Around dawn, Venus will be the brightest “star” in the sky, by far. Then, about an hour before sunrise, look just below Venus to find Mercury, which tends to be closer to the horizon.