In Surat, India
Co-ordinates are 21.1 ° N latitude 72.8° E longitude
WHAT YOU CAN SEE
Planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn
WHAT YOU NEED
Sense of Direction, Observation Skills & Patience a lot of it.
Mercury is an interior planet with respect to the Earth. It is the closest planet to the Sun. So you will see it either right before Sunrise or after Sunset. It is very small planet so spotting Mercury in the sky is quite some challenge. It might take some time to get a hang around it as well as your local conditions must be good enough to be able to see it as it will often be seen only around the horizon where maximum obstacles are seen or pollution interferes.
A planet is said to be inferior or interior with respect to another planet if its orbit lies inside the other planet’s orbit around the Sun.
In Surat which is an urban city with dense population and vehicular movement, sky at the horizon is usually obstruct by buildings or covered in dark clouds caused by pollution. You may either take a vantage point at a building’s terrace or find an open field near Tapi river where you can see horizon.
In the month of May, Mercury is close to Sun in the sky, so it is not possible to see it. So you may enjoy looking at Venus during this time. Mercury revolves the Sun in 88 days, so it goes around in the sky from East to West with in that duration.
Venus is the brightest object in the night sky after Moon. It shines bright enough to be seen in the presence of Sun at Sunset or Sunrise. You may get it confused with Sirius star which looks almost similar but you just need to find if it’s twinkling or not to be able to identify Venus. Yes, planets don’t twinkling in sky due to their proximity to Solar system as well as they don’t have their own light. Planets reflect the light of Sun, just like the Moon.
Venus is interior planet like Mercury. It is seen either before Sunrise or after Sunset as per it’s position in the orbit around Sun. In May it is seen the west after Sunset.
And yes, planets undergo phases just like the Moon, however it is not possible to see the phasing details with naked eye. However using a sufficiently strong telescope, phases of Venus can be seen just like how Galileo did.
Venus is shining bright in the west sky right after the Sunset. It shines bright enough to be confused with a light bulb. Follow the Sun in the evening and enjoy the Sunset. Right after sunset, you will see a bright star shining in the sky in the same direction, that is Venus. Venus is visible until 9 PM or so in Surat. The altitude of Venus will be around 30 degree from horizon when you will be able to see it the best.
Sunset is at 7:05 PM today.
Mars can be seen from 2 am onwards in Surat towards the South-East sky. All planets follow the elliptical. Once you get a hang of it, you would know where the planets may be located. Currently all the 3 exterior planets visible to naked eye are in sequence in the night sky.
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are superior planets visible to naked eye. Since they have orbits larger than Earth, they follow the movement of sky as seen from Earth. You can see these planets rising and setting down. Currently the rising hours are near midnight so they can be seen for around 3-5 hours depending upon the Sunrise.
A planet is said to be superior with respect to another planet if its orbit lies outside the other planet’s orbit around the Sun.
Jupiter is visible first in the east sky at night in the sequence of the three exterior planets visible with naked eye. It can be seen clearly from 12:30 am onwards.
Jupiter is very bright and easily spotted in the sky. Once identified, it can be taken as a reference to spot Saturn, which is very dim and Mars which is fairly bright in itself.
Saturn is following Jupiter in the sky as seen from Surat. As Jupiter rises high in sky sometime after that, Saturn will start to shine very dim. As it rises up in the sky and night starts to fall in, it gains some sharpness.
SOLAR SYSTEM 101
Looking for stars and constellations in the night sky, check out here.
To know more about Night Sky, Naked Astronomy, Solar System, Planets, Stars and Cosmos check out our series about SKYGAZING.