June this year is an unusually good month for planet spotters, it's possible to see 6 planets plus the moon in one night. For the pedantic among us I suppose I should say 7 and include the Earth!
The planets all pass along an imaginary line through space called the ecliptic. I shouldn't really call it a line, strictly speaking it's a plane, I'll try and explain that.
Imagine yourself far out in space looking at the solar system from above so the sun is at the centre, and all the planets are going around it. The planets orbit the sun in the same direction, as though they are laid out on a disc.
The ecliptic is also where all the constellations that make up the Zodiac can be found, from our point of view, the planets pass through the Zodiac as the months go by.
The first planet to look for is Jupiter, it's the easiest to spot, big and orange in the south in the constellation of Libra, use binoculars to see some of Jupiter's moons.
To see the next planet, you'll need to go out just after sunset, and look in the west. That big very bright thing is Venus, it's been a magnificent sight recently. Venus is what's called an inferior planet, meaning it orbit is inside earth's orbit, it also shows phases just like the moon does. Looking at it late June through a telescope you'll see it's about ¾ full.
Next let's look for Saturn, everyone's favourite planet. It won't be visible until after about 10.30pm at night, and to see it well wait until 11.30pm or later. It's in Sagittarius, low down in the south to south east. Again, it's very bright, and the rings are still beautiful to see. Not everyone realises that the rings aren't always visible. From our point of view the rings open and close over a few years, by 2025 they will be edge on to us, so make the most of any chance you have to look at them. Our group will organise a viewing evening in the autumn.
Next is Mars, not a brilliant sight at the moment. Wait until around 1am and look low down in the south east in Capricorn. Still very red and quite obvious when you find it.
Now on to the tricky ones, and only possible for those who have a decent telescope. Neptune and Uranus both become observable around 3am in Aries and Aquarius. I'm not going to go on about these two, anyone with enough experience to stay awake and find them won't need my help.
Lastly, if anyone reading this has a 10 inch or bigger telescope, have a look for Pluto. Although no longer classed as a major planet it's still there and quite a feat to see it. I never have.
That's it for this month, if any of you manage to see some of the planets, we'd like to hear from you. Our email is