Astronomical Phenomena 2002:
Visibility of Planets
edited by Michael Fallon
The planets below are referenced to the constellations (astronomical or sidereal zodiac placements), not to the zodiac signs (tropical zodiac). Information on Uranus and Neptune assumes the use of a telescope.
Mercury can only be seen low in the east before sunrise, or low in the west after sunset (about the time of beginning or end of civil twilight). It is visible in the mornings between the following approximate dates: February 3 to March 29, June 6 to July 13, and October 5 to October 31. The planet is brighter at the end of each period; the best conditions in northern latitudes occur from mid-October, and in southern latitudes from mid-February to mid-March. It is visible in the evenings between the following approximate dates: January 1 to January 22, April 16 to May 17, July 29 to September 21, and December 1 to December 31. The planet is brighter at the beginning of each period; the best conditions in northern latitudes occur from late April to early May, and in southern latitudes from mid-August to mid-September.
Venus is too close to the Sun for observation until late February when it appears as a brilliant object in the evening sky. During the last week of October it again becomes too close to the Sun for observation until the end of the first week of November when it reappears in the morning sky. Venus is in conjunction with Saturn on May 7, with Mars on May 10, and with Jupiter on June 3.
Mars can be seen in the evening sky in Aquarius at the beginning of the year. It moves into Pisces during the second week of January, into Aries in late February, Taurus in early April (passing 6?N of Aldebaran on April 29), and into Gemini from late May. It becomes too close to the Sun for observation during the second half of June, reappearing in the morning sky from late September in Leo. It then continues into Virgo in the first week of October (passing 3?N of Spica on November 20), and into Leo from mid-December. Mars is in conjunction with Saturn on May 4, Venus on May 10, and Jupiter on July 3.
Jupiter is in opposition on January 1 when it can be seen throughout the night in Gemini. Its eastward elongation then gradually decreases and from late March it can be seen only in the evening sky. In early July it becomes too close to the Sun for observation until early August when it reappears in the morning sky in Cancer. Its westward elongation gradually increases until by mid-November it can be seen for more than half the night passing into Leo in the second half of November and into Cancer from mid-December. Jupiter is in conjunction with Venus on June 3 and with Mars on July 3.
Saturn is in Taurus at the beginning of the year. It can be seen for more than half the night until late February, after which period it can only be seen in the evening sky. Its eastward elongation gradually decreases (passing 4?N of Aldebaran on March 31), and in the second half of May it becomes too close to the Sun for observation. It reappears in the morning sky in late June and passes into Orion at the beginning of September and Taurus in the second half of November. It is at opposition on December 17, when it can be seen throughout the night. For the remainder of the year its eastward elongation gradually decreases, and it is visible for the greater part of the night. Saturn is in conjunction with Mercury on May 4, Venus on May 7, and Mercury on July 2.
Uranus is visible in the evening sky in Capricorn for the first three weeks of January. It then becomes too close to the Sun for observation until the beginning of the second week of March, when it reappears in the morning sky. It moves into Aquarius at the end of March and into Capricorn from mid-August. It is at opposition on August 20, and from mid-November it can only be seen in the evening sky.
Neptune is visible for the first week of January in Capricorn and remains in the constellation throughout the year. It then becomes too close to the Sun for observation on August 2, and from early November it can be seen only in the evening sky.
Do not confuse Mars with Saturn from late April to mid-May when Saturn is the brighter object, and with Jupiter in the second half of June when Jupiter is the brighter object.
Do not confuse Venus with Mars in the first half of May and again from late November to the end of December, and Venus with Saturn in the first half of May and with Jupiter in the first week of June; on all occasions Venus is the brighter object.
Do not confuse Mercury with Saturn in late June to early July, and Mercury with Mars in the first half of October; on both occasions Mercury is the brighter object.
This article is excerpted from Daily Planetary Guide 2002, ?2001,
edited by Michael Fallon. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Llewellyn
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Resource: Astronomical Phenomena for the Year 2002, prepared by the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory.