Looking for the planets at their best during 2017? This guideline tells you all you need to know to gaze these astronomical wonders in the night sky this year. This guide also tells you when a planet might be over looping to another planet or a star. Lastly, it lists the stars that each planet will inhabit during the year as well as the various surroundings - conjunctions, oppositions, and elongations -on this year's calendar.
Mercury, as the evening star, it always emerges in the western sky and sets about an hour after sundown. As a morning star, it emerges in the eastern sky, ascents about an hour before the sun. There must be a clear, no obstruction view on these occasions. Mercury frequently appears as a bright "star" with a yellowish or ochre hue. See it appears morning from Jan. 5 to Feb. 14, evenings starting March 23 to April 8, then mornings from April 29 to June 7, and evenings from July 5 to Aug. 17, then also mornings from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20, and till evenings from Nov. 2 to Dec. 4 and mornings from Dec. 20 to Dec. 31.
Mercury is brightest and easiest to identify in the evening sky in between from March 23 and April 8, and in the morning sky from Sept. 6 to 20.
Venus, always vivid and shining with a firm, silvery light, appears in the western sky nightfall from Jan. 1 to March 16, and in the eastern sky dawn from April 3 through Nov. 13. Starting mid-February throughout until early May, Venus is noticeable as a slender crescent through firmly held binoculars or telescopes. Venus is brightest at night sky from Jan. 30 through March 1, attaining its greatest brightness on Feb. 17. Venus is brightest morning sky from April 15 through May 14, attaining its greatest brilliance on April 30.
The planet elapses to the north much-fainter bluish star Regulus (in Leo, the lion), the morning of Sept. 20; with its star, it will appear low in the east-northeast dawn sky, separated by only half a degree. Morning of Oct. 5, Venus will pass only about one-quarter of a degree north of Planet Mars, the Red Planet will be seen only 1/191 as bright. And before vanishing into the bright morning dusk on the morning of Nov. 13, Venus will pass 0.3 degrees north of Planet Jupiter, you will notice the two planets making for a striking sight, positioned low side by side in the east-southeast sky in the dawn sky.
Mars, a star with a yellow-orange tint, can vary significantly in brightness. Starting evenings from Jan. 1 through June 6 and mornings from Sept. 11 through Dec. 31. This is an "off" year for Mars, as the planet never becomes very bright or visible. It's at aphelion (its farthest point from the Sun) on Oct. 7, once it is 154.9 million miles (249.3 million kilometers) from the sun and even more remote 235 million miles (378 million km) from the Earth.
Despite this rather gloomy viewpoint, you be reminded that next year brings an excellent shade of Mars; in fact, astronomers said that in late July 2018, the Red Planet might come closer to Earth since Mars' was historically on record approaches Earth in Aug. 2003. Along with its close contact to Venus on Oct. 5. Mars and Mercury also team-up on the morning of Sept. 16, the two planets with less than one-third of a degree of each other in the eastern sky.
Jupiter looks quite brilliant, with a silver-white gleam. Will be spot it mornings from Jan. 1 to April 6, and evenings from April 7 through Oct. 6, and mornings once more from Nov. 13 through Dec. 31. As much as 2017, Jupiter will shine like a stunning, non-twinkling, silvery "star" against the fairly dim star background of Virgo, the maiden, sooner or later it will cross into Libra, the scales, on Nov. 15. Jupiter passes to the north of bluish Spica, and the brightest star of Virgo, on Sept. 12.
Brightest in 2017: Marked it starting March 28 to April 19. Jupiter is in opposition to the Sun on April 7. As the planet begins to arise from out of the bright dawn twilight, Jupiter exceeds very close to Venus - just one-third of a degree untying them - on Nov. 13.
Saturn shines a yellowish-white of moderate bright star. The famous rings are very visible only in a telescope zooming at least 30 power. They were off edge-on toward Earth through most of 2009 and at times were quite problematic to observe. The rings have now "opened-up" outstandingly to stargazers view and are at their maximum slope toward Earth - a Saturnicentric latitude of 26.98 degrees - on Oct. 17.
Saturn starts 2017 in the non-zodiac group of Ophiuchus, the serpent holder, and then cross through over into Sagittarius, the archer, on Feb. 23. Reversing motion causes the ringed planet to overlap back into Ophiuchus on May 18, where Saturn will continue until it crosses back into Sagittarius on Nov. 18. Spot it in mornings from Jan. 1 to June 14 and evenings from June 15 to Dec. 4.
Brightest in 2017: It will June 12 to June 17. Saturn is at opposing side of the sun on June 15.
Uranus can be seen in a naked-eye by people with good eyesight and a clear, dark sky, as well as a knowledge of exactly where to look. It shines at greatness +5.7 and can be readily recognized with good binoculars. A small telescope may reveal Uranus' tiny, green color disk. It better to see in evenings from Jan. 1 to March 29, also mornings of April 30 to Oct. 18 and evenings again from Oct. 19 to Dec. 31.
Brightest in 2017: Aug. 27 to Dec. 7 in its brightest. Uranus reaches at opposing side to the sun on Oct. 19. Mars will pass less than 0.6 degrees from Uranus on the evening of Feb. 26.
Neptune spends 2017 in constellation of Aquarius. At a top scale of +7.8, this bluish-hued world is noticeable only with astrophysics binoculars or a telescope. Start locating it on evenings of Jan. 1 through Feb. 15, till mornings of March 18 through Sept. 4 and evenings once more from Sept. 5 to Dec. 31.
Brightest in 2017: July 13 to Oct. 28. On opposing side on Sept. 5. On the twilight of Jan. 12, you can try to use Venus to lead you to Neptune, when Venus is positioned less than 0.4 degrees to the upper right of Planet Neptune. Good binoculars or a telescope may expose the solar system's most distant hovering planets, but keep in mind it will shine about 80,000 times fainter than Venus!