ASTROBLOG: Want to spot Venus, Jupiter and Saturn this Summer? Here’s where (and when) to look!
by Matthew Whitehouse, Observatory Manager
Early June is great time to go planet hunting! This year three planets are visible in the early summer evening sky: Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.
In early June, if you look to the west right after sunset, you’ll see a very bright star-like object high in the sky. This is not a star at all, but rather the planet Venus. Venus sets just before midnight and begins to get low in the sky around 11 p.m., so it’s best spotted right as the sky is getting dark.
Early June is also an excellent time to spot Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. Jupiter is located high in the southwestern sky as twilight begins. It’s bright – but not quite as bright as Venus – as it’s located much farther away from Earth. In early June, Jupiter is easily visible around midnight and sets just before 1 a.m.
Venus and Jupiter. Looking west from Columbia at 10 p.m. on June 1, 2015.
The grand ringed planet Saturn is the final planet visible this summer. You have to stay up just a little later to get a good view of Saturn. It rises around 7:30 p.m. early in the month, and is nice and high in the southeast by 10 p.m. As we move further into the summer, Saturn will rise earlier and earlier, which means you won’t have to wait as late to get a nice view. By early July, Saturn will be easily visible in the southeastern sky at 9 p.m. On June 1, the almost-full Moon will be located just to the left of Saturn for an exceptionally pretty sight.
Saturn and the Moon. Looking southeast from Columbia at 10 p.m. on June 1, 2015.
As a side note, I should mention that we’re now approaching the summer solstice, which means we’re experiencing our latest sunsets of the year. During the month of June, we have to wait until around 10 p.m. for the sky to get completely dark. However, you can go planet hunting before then, since bright planets such as Venus and Jupiter are easily visible in twilight.
Finally, we hope you’ll join us in the State Museum’s Boeing Observatory on Tuesday nights. We’re now open until 10 p.m. during Second Shift Twosday, and we’d love for you to drop by for an awesome view of Jupiter (weather permitting). Later in the summer, we’ll show Saturn in all its ringed glory!