Merrillville Community Planetarium
Bringing the Universe to the Merrillville Schools and Northwest Indiana

Four Planets Visible at Once in Evening Sky

Four bright planets are visible just after sunset through April and May. Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are in a line rising up from the western horizon into high in the southwestern sky. Later this month, Mercury will join the other planets. As a result, all five planets visible with the naked eye will be observable during the early evening this spring. There won't be another gathering of planets this good until the year 2060.

The planets are easy to observe - all that's needed is a clear sky just after sunset. Although binoculars are helpful, the planets are bright enough to be observed with the unaided eye.

During early April, four planets trail the sun as it sets in the western sky. For example, on April 3, the sun sets about 6:18 p.m. As the sky darkens, Venus will be the first "star" visible in the western sky. Venus is very bright - in fact, it's third brightest looking object in the sky. Only the sun and moon appear brighter. Above Venus -- and not nearly as bright -- is the planet Mars. Above Mars is the slightly brighter planet Saturn. And, above Saturn is Jupiter, which is nearly as bright as Venus.

Around April 11, Mercury joins the other four planets. Although Mercury is about the same brightness as Mars, Mercury is more difficult to find. Because Mercury orbits the sun closer than any other planet, it is always near the sun. As a result, Mercury is often lost in the glow of sunset. However, by using binoculars and using Venus as a guide, it should be possible to find Mercury during the last half of April. Mercury will be located between Venus and the horizon.

A crescent moon will pass by the planets during the middle of the month. On April 14, the moon will pass near Venus. The moon passes Mars on April 15 and Saturn on the next night. On April 18, the moon passes Jupiter. Once again, binoculars will help you observe the moon and planets during these close encounters.

The five planets will remain visible through mid-May until Mercury drops from sight. By the end of May, Saturn will be too low to be seen. Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, however, will remain visible through the middle of June.