WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Sunrise, sunset offer opportunities to spot planets in October

Posted October 16, 2015

Though nearly 360 million miles apart, our their orbit and our vantage point from Earth will make Mars and Jupiter look nearly on top of each other  (Image: JPL Eyes on the Solar System)

Throughout the remainder of October, you'll be able to see five planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) somewhere overnight. Three will be in conjunction, separated by a few degrees of sky at most. Two will be visible during daylight hours as well.

On Friday night, Saturn, the crescent moon and the reddish star Antares will form a triangle, each separated by less than eight degrees. Look low in the western sky beginning about 30 minutes after sunset.

On Saturday morning, Jupiter, Mars and Venus will be visible in the eastern sky. Look closely for Mars. Dimmer Mars will be just to the left of brighter Jupiter, separated by less than 1/2 degree. The pair were last this close in July 2013 and won't be again until January 2018 when they’ll be even closer.

A trio of planets awaits early risers. Beginning around 5 a.m. through sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings, Jupiter, Mars and Venus will be visible in the eastern sky. Find the backward question mark that makes up the head of Leo the Lion. The bright star at the bottom of the question mark is Regulus. Below Regulus, you’ll find much brighter Venus. Below Venus and slightly toward the north, Jupiter and Mars will be paired up.

Look for Mercury low on the eastern horizon about 45 minutes before Saturday's 7:22 a.m. sunrise.

If you aren’t an early riser, you can still see two planets in the daylight this month. Jupiter and especially Venus are visible above the rising sun for the first hour or so of daylight.

Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.


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