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I have decided to repost these posts as Kam has asked where and why planets move across the sky and sometimes disappear.
Following on from our other visible planets posts we need to find out where we can see Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the sky.
Mars has a red hue to it because iron oxides (rust) covers its surface.
Mars glows dimly in the night sky most of the time, except when it is directly opposite the Sun, (opposition).
When Mars is in opposition, usually every 2 years, it’s at its largest and brightest.
Generally though, Mars is not as bright as Venus but it’s luminosity is largest as its orbit get closer to Earth. (Its elliptical orbit means that it can vary from 50 to 400 million km from Earth.)
Mars is the first of the outer planets, those with orbits further away from the Sun than Earth’s. As such it takes Mars longer to orbit and so appears to stay in a constellation longer than the inner planets.
Mars – as of April 2015:
Mars has been in the evening skies for a few months. Now, It’s will become lost into the Sun’s glare. It will lie close to Mercury in the third week of April. It will be a salmon pink colour. Mercury will be brighter than Mars.
It will be out of view for 3 months. It becomes visible in the dawn sky in late July. By May 2016 Mars will be in the Scorpius constellation when it will be in opposition.
Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky after Venus. It is a shining white colour.
If you look with binoculars you may just see its 4 largest moons. A telescope may pick up its bands and Red Spot.
It is the biggest object in the Solar System except for the Sun. Jupiter takes longer than Mars to orbit the Sun, so once you find it, it will be in the same constellation for a long time.
Jupiter – as of April 2015
Jupiter two months past opposition, is high in the south-west in the evening. Slowly, it will get dimmer and smaller. It is in the cancer constellation and appears to move very little in relation to the stars.
Jupiter moves to the west through the night. For us, it will set in the west about two hours before sunrise at the start of April, and at the end, sets about three hours before sunrise.
With good binoculars you might see the bands, Red Spot and Jupiter’s moons. (A small telescope is a better bet, but we haven’t got any, so we’ll try with the binoculars.).
On April 25 and 26, Jupiter will pass close to the moon.
To us Saturn looks like a small, yellow-white light, yet it is easy to see. Saturn is not as bright as Mars or Jupiter. It is known as the Golden Planet.
It takes a long time to orbit the Sun, so it will be in the same star group for a while.
Saturn – as of April 2015
Saturn rises in the evening. It lies close to the left-hand star of the fan of Scorpius.
Saturn becomes visible from late night until dawn. For us, it rises in the southeast around midnight in early April getting earlier each night. By the end of April it is visible at around 10 p.m.
Using a telescope and if Saturn’s rings tilt towards Earth, you can see them.
A Note to You and Me
We’ve just caught the end of April. We will have to add another post to catch May before it begins. I like this layout, so this is what we’ll go with.
We have written other posts about the visible planets. Here is a link: Visible Planets. Have a look at our space and science categories to see more planet related questions.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and it’s been useful. As ever, we’d love to hear from you. If you have any tips on looking for Planets, please let us know. Mum, don’t forget the May update – Kam, I know you’ll remind me! X