During 2018, the five naked eye planets — those visible without a telescope (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) — can be seen during the early evening in late July. It should be noted that the farther south the observer, the easier they are to see as illustrated in the following diagrams. From more northern latitudes, such as mine in Chicago (and farther north), Mercury sets or is very close to the horizon when Mars becomes visible in the east. See this article to see five planets during the evening, but not simultaneously, for those who live farther north.
The summer sky is full of planetary activity. Venus shines brightly in the western sky. Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars are passing through their oppositions and displaying their retrograde patterns. During late July, Mercury pops into the evening sky for a short visit.
These articles outline the planetary activity during 2018:
- Chart and Image Collection
- 2018: The Morning Sky
- 2018: The Evening Sky
- 2018: Mercury in the Morning Sky
- 2018: Mercury in the Evening Sky
- 2018: Five Planets Visible at Once
- 2018: Venus the Evening Star
- 2017-2019: Mars Observing Year with a Perihelic Opposition, July 27, 2018
- 2018: Mars Perihelic Opposition
- 2017-2018: Jupiter’s Year in the Claws of the Scorpion, A Triple Conjunction
- 2018: Three Planets at Opposition in 79 days
- 2018: Saturn with the Teapot
From Latitude 33 degrees North (Dallas, Texas)
From latitude 33 degrees North, the planets span across the sky from the east-southeast to the west-northwest.
Look for the five planets two to three days before and after the charted date (July 21). Find a clear horizon to see Mercury; binoculars may be needed to initially identify it. Twilight is longer, so look for the planets around chart time and before Mercury disappears below the horizon. The moon appears near Jupiter. Saturn is low the south-southeast, above the stars of the Teapot (Sagittarius).
Latitude 33 degrees South (Sydney, Australia)
(For my southern hemisphere readers)
From the southern hemisphere where the sun and planets appear in the north, the five naked eye planets are easily visible at 6:30 p.m. AEST. Tonight the moon is closer to Jupiter than viewed hours later in North America. Twilight is shorter at this season in the southern hemisphere. The line-up is the same across the sky as from the northern latitudes. Mercury in the west-northwest arching back to Mars in the east-southeast.
The farther south, the better the view.
For those at favorable latitudes, look for the planets in late July. Let us know what you see!