Planet Viewing in 2013
The solar system's smallest planet flits back and forth from morning sky to evening sky several times a year. From the northern hemisphere, it is visible in the morning sky in March/April, July/August, and November/December. The early-year appearance is best. In the evening, Mercury is best seen in February, June, and September/October.
Venus, the dazzling morning or evening star, begins the year in the morning sky. It will disappear from view in late January as it passes behind the Sun as seen from Earth. It will return to view as an “evening star” in late summer and remain there for the rest of the year.
Mars is hidden in the Sun’s glare for a good bit of the year. It will return to view in the morning sky by early July, and climb higher into the sky as the year progresses, growing gradually brighter as it does so.
The largest planet in our solar system begins the year in the southeast at nightfall, near Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus. It will will disappear in the Sun’s glare in late May, then return to view in the dawn sky in mid-July.
Golden Saturn is at its best in late April, when it is closest to Earth. It disappears behind the Sun in October, then returns to view in the morning sky in mid-November.
Although it is the third-largest planet in the solar system, Uranus is so far from the Sun that you need binoculars to see it. It begins the year in the western sky at sunset, then disappears behind the Sun in late March and early April, after which it returns to view in the morning sky. Uranus stages its best appearance in late September, when it is at its brightest and is in the sky all night. The best chance to see it, however, comes around February 8-10, when the planet is in the same binocular field of view with Venus, the brilliant “evening star.”