Can you name all eight planets in our solar system? Earth is a given, and after Pluto’s 2009 demotion from planet-hood to the dwarf-planet category, the quiz is even easier. But seven more planets are out there, and this weekend will be a great chance to test your memory. Five planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — will be visible in the night sky starting on Sunday, July 19.
You’ll have to wake up early to catch all five in a single showing. Jupiter will appear in the southwest sky about two hours before sunrise. The rings of Saturn will be above to the right. Follow a curve to the southeast and you’ll see the red glow of Mars hanging above the skyline.
After finding Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, look to the north. The planets orbit the sun in a manner visible from Earth on a line known as the ecliptic. While looking northeast from Mars, Venus will jump out at you as one of the brightest objects in the sky. You’ve now nearly completed the count.
Forty-five minutes before sunrise on the East Coast, Mercury will become visible as it rises from the northeast, a short distance (from our perspective) from Venus. Like Mars, Mercury will appear red and may have a small crescent moon hanging above. A pair of binoculars will make the viewing experience easier on the eyes. And if you do have a telescope, there’s never been a better time to dust it off and station it out in the yard for an early-morning stargaze.
Oh, and for the record, the other planets are Uranus and Neptune.