If you’d like to get a look at the planets in our Solar System this year, be sure to consult this handy guide on when and where to look.
As an evening star, Mercury appears in the western sky setting about an hour after the Sun. As a morning star, it appears inthe eastern sky rising about an hour before the Sun. There must be a clear, unobstructed horizon on these occasions. Mercury usually appears as a bright “star” with a yellowish or ochre hue. Evenings from January 22 to February 6; mornings from March 7 to March 28; evenings from May 11 to June 1; mornings from July 5 to July 24; evenings from September 7 to September 28; mornings from October 25 to November 8. Mercury will be brightest and easiest to spot in the evening sky between May 11 and June 1; brightest and easiest to spot in the morning sky between October 25 and November 8.
Always brilliant, and shining with a steady, silvery light. Evenings in the western sky at dusk January 1; December 25 to December 31. Mornings in the eastern sky at dawn from January 20 to August 29. Venus will attain its greatest brilliancy in the morning sky on February 11. During late January, on into most of February in the morning sky, Venus will resemble a striking crescent phase in telescopes and steadily-held binoculars. On the morning of August 18, Venus will pass very closely to the north of Jupiter, a spectacular sight!
Shines like a star with a yellowish-orange hue, and can vary considerably in brightness. Mornings from January 1 to April 8; evenings from April 9 to December 31. Mars begins the year in Virgo (the constellation, not the sign), rising in the east-southeast shortly after midnight, and crosses the meridian just as dawn is breaking. Brightest in 2014: March 25 to April 22. Mars will be closest to Earth on April 14 at 8:53 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time at a distance of 57.4 million miles. Since Mars can come as close as 34.6 million miles to Earth, this year’s is not a particularly close encounter. Six days earlier, Mars arrives at opposition to the Sun: rising at sunset, in the south at midnight and setting at sunup. It will also be shining at its brightest for 2014 at magnitude -1.5–just a trifle brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. In the weeks and months that follow, Mars will become a fixture in the evening sky, but will be receding from the Earth and consequently will get progressively fainter.
By New Year’s Eve, it will be low in the southwestern sky at sundown, setting more than three hours later. It will have receded to a distance of 183 million miles from Earth and will shine just 1/11 as bright as it was in mid April.
Quite brilliant with a silver-white luster. Mornings from January 1 to January 5; evenings from January 6 to July 4; mornings again from August 14 to December 31. Brightest in 2014: January 1 to January 19. It is at opposition to the Sun on January 5. From January 31 to April 18, Jupiter will appear to pass almost directly overhead when it crosses the meridian as seen from the southern United States. On the morning of August 18, Venus will pass very close to Jupiter, giving the appearance of a spectacular “double planet” low in the east-northeast twilight sky.
Shines like a yellowish-white “star” of moderate brightness. The famous rings are only visible in a telescope magnifying at least 30-power. Mornings from January 1 to May 10; evenings from May 11 to October 31; mornings again from December 5 to December 31. Brightest in 2014: April 26 to May 25. It is at opposition to the Sun on May 10.
Can be glimpsed as a naked-eye object by people who are blessed with good eyesight and a clear, dark sky, as well as a forehand knowledge of exactly where to look for it. It shines at magnitude +5.8 and can be readily identified with good binoculars. A small telescope may reveal its
tiny, greenish disk. Uranus will start 2014 near the border of the constellations Cetus and Pisces, tucked just inside of Pisces, where it will reside for the entire year. During the total lunar eclipse of October 8, Uranus will be positioned very close to the totally eclipsed Moon. Brightest in 2014: September 22 to October 22. Uranus will arrive at opposition to the Sun on October 7.
At magnitude +7.8, Neptune is only visible with good binoculars or a telescope. It will spend 2014 in the constellation of Aquarius. The following information is for “boxed data” on the second page only: Brightest in 2014: August 14 to September 13. Opposition is on August 29.