Looking Up: My Very Existential Mother Just Served Us Noodles

Oct 7, 2019

This illustration shows the approximate sizes of the planets relative to each other. Outward from the Sun, the planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Credit public domain / wikimedia.org

This week on Looking Up we go on a planet hunt with Hal.

How many of the 8 planets can you see? (sorry, Pluto fans, there are 8). I admit, it is a bit of a trick question. But the month of October is an especially great month for planet watching, in which you can see SIX of the 8 planets, though you’ll need a telescope to see some of them.

How do I know about this? Well, there is a terrific article in my go-to astronomy magazine, Sky and Telescope. The October issue details the six planets you can see in the night sky, and one in the early morning.

Venus, the brightest of the planets, is low in the western sky for most of October. Jupiter and Saturn are fairly easy to spot all month, as two bright objects a bit to the west after sunset. Uranus, with a telescope, will be one of the easiest to find , as it is above the horizon all night. The distant Neptune is up most of the night, but you’ll definitely need a scope to see it. Mars appears in the early morning sky, just an hour or so before the Sun rises, as it’s been behind the Sun, relative to Earth, for about 6 weeks. 

This graphic shows how much each planet in our solar system tilts on its axis. Notice how Uranus is tilted a whopping 98 degrees!
Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/Richard Barkus | + Expand image / nasa.gov

So that’s 6 planets you can spot, pretty cool, eh? The Seventh? It’s even easier to spot. Just look under your feet!

If you’d like to take a closer look at the planets, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit KRCC.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.