The Visible Planets

"Jupiter and Saturn" 
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Mr. R. 
REQUIREMENT #2Do ONE of the following:
a.Photograph or locate on a map of the sky a planet at approximately weekly intervals at the same time of night for at least four weeks. Explain any changes noticed on the photographs or map.
 

NOTE:  The photo to the right shows three moons of Jupiter, one of which is transiting in front of Jupiter.  Can you find all three?


Photo: Wes Higgins

-OR-


b. Find out when each of the five visible planets will be observable in the evening sky during the next 12 months and compile this information in the form of a chart or table.
The Visible Planets
(for years  2002  2003 )


Month
Mercury*
Venus
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
June
11th (morn)
Gemini (eve)
Gemini
Gemini
Taurus
July
(n/v)
Leo (eve)
Gemini
Gemini
Taurus
August
(n/v)
Virgo (eve)
Cancer
Cancer
Taurus
September
1st (eve)
Virgo (eve)
Leo
Cancer
Orion
October
13th (morn)
Libra (eve)
Leo
Cancer
Orion
November
(n/v)
Virgo (n/v)
Virgo
Cancer
Orion
December
26th (eve)
Virgo (morn)
Virgo
Leo
Taurus
January
(n/v)
Libra (morn)
Libra
Cancer
Taurus
February
4th (morn)
Sagittarius (morn)
Ophiuchus
Cancer
Taurus
March
(n/v)
Sagittarius (morn)
Sagittarius
Cancer
Taurus
April
16th (eve)
Aquarius (morn)
Sagittarius
Cancer
Taurus
May
(n/v)
Pieces (morn)
Capricorn
Cancer
Taurus

     * Note: Mercury is visible a few days before and after the listed dates
     "morn" and "eve" mean the planet is visible just before sunrise or just after sunset respectively
     "n/v" means the planet is not visible because it is too close to the sun (at least from earth's view point)

This is an example of what a previous year's table looked like.  Yours will be different!
Create a table that starts with the month you are currently in and continue listing the months until one year is listed (see example: June 2002 to May 2003).  Now list the 5 visible planets across the top.  Astronomy magazines and yearly almanacs usually list when the planets can be seen.  Usually we refer to a planet's location as being "in" a certain constellation, but actually the planet is just passing in front of the constellation.
 
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison has an excellent simple online program, "The Planets" to calculate where each of the planets (except Mercury) will be located for any month up until the year 2100.
  • To find out when Mercury is visible, try Mercury Chaser's Calculator which lists when Mercury will be at its greatest elongation (furthest distance from the sun).  The planet will also be visible a few days before and a few days after the listed date.

 
 
FYI - For Your Information
Mercury is so close to the sun that it is only occasionally visible.  In the above photo it is the little black dot at the top middle.  Big Bear Solar Observatory has an amazing video showing Mercury transiting the face of the sun. 
(Click on this photo at their web site).

A transit is the passage of a planet or moon across the disk of the Sun or another planet and is a relatively unusual occurrence. As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible. On average, there are 13 transits of Mercury each century (transits of Venus being rarer). 
Data from NASA Science News Home
 
Transits of Mercury
(1970 - 2050)

Date                 UT*      Sep**
1970 May 09           08:16          114"
1973 Nov 10           10:32            26"
1986 Nov 13           04:07          471"
1993 Nov 06           03:57          927"
1999 Nov 15           21:41          963"
2003 May 07           07:52          708"
2006 Nov 08           21:41          423"
2016 May 09           14:57          319"
2019 Nov 11           15:20            76"
2032 Nov 13           08:54          572"
2039 Nov 07           08:56          822"
2049 May 07           14:24          512"

     * UT is Universal Time
     ** Separation is the distance between  the
          centers of the Sun and Mercury  (arc-seconds)
 


http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2000/ast02jun_1.htm



 
 
 
 

  • OTHER HELPFUL LINK TO "PLANETS" INFORMATION

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    Webpage updated November 2003
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