You’ve looked up and seen one or two very bright ‘stars’ and wondered “what planet is visible tonight?” and landed on this page.

You’ve come to the right place!

We’re going to tell you, for each of the brightest planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, whether you can see them tonight and, if so, when and where to look for them.

Let’s jump in and discover what planets are visible right now.

(If you’re looking for information on this month’s moon, click here.)


Planets Visible Tonight – June 2024

During the month of June we can no longer see Mercury or Venus in the evening sky, as they set and rise alongside the sun.  Mars begins to make an appearance once again in the early morning hours, just before sunrise.  Jupiter gradually climbs higher in our sky, and becomes easier to spot in the morning twilight.  While Saturn shines brightly and is now easily spotted in the early morning hours.  Uranus is just barely above the horizon and a challenge to view, while Neptune is more easily viewable, as it climbs higher in the sky each day.

In the early morning of June 3rd we’ll see a planetary alignment consisting of 6 planets (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), however they will not all be visible due to the competing sunrise.

All of the sky charts in this section are from SkySafari 6.

Mercury

Mercury is not viewable this month, as it sets and rises each day, alongside the sun.  On the 4th of June it achieves a very close conjunction with Jupiter.

Mercury at 5:45 a.m. on 15 June, click for full-screen
June DateRiseTransit (Highest)Set
0505:1312:2619:38
1505:4813:1720:47
2506:4114:1121:41

Venus

Venus continues to hide from view as it rises and sets with the sun.  It achieves superior conjunction on the 4th, when it will in fact be occulted by the Sun.  This occurs every June, at 8-year intervals, and has done so since 1976.  This is a 10-event series that ends in 2048.

Venus is on the horizon at 9:00 p.m. on 15 June. Click for full-screen.
June DateRiseTransit (Highest)Set
0505:5113:1420:36
1506:0013:2720:55
2506:1413:4221:09

Mars

Mars can now be seen in the early morning sky each day, just above the eastern horizon.  It is shining brightly at magnitude +1.0, within the constellation Pisces during the first week of June, and then slowly moving into Aries for the remainder of the month. 

Mars will climb higher in the sky as the days pass and grow steadily brighter, as Earth is gaining on Mars, in our faster and smaller orbit around the sun.

The waning crescent moon passes just 2° to its north on June 2nd.

Mars is 15° high at 4:30 a.m. in the middle of this month. Click for full-screen.
June DateRiseTransit (Highest)Set
0503:2710:0116:34
1503:0709:4916:32
2502:4709:3816:29

Jupiter

Jupiter begins the month coming out of solar conjunction, and becomes visible in the early morning twilight once again.  It can now be found within the constellation Taurus, where it will remain for the rest of the year.  It shines brightly all month long at magnitude -2.0 with a disk size gradually increasing to 32.9 arc seconds, by the end of the month.

Jupiter achieves a very close conjunction with Mercury on June 4th, where it can be found only 0.1° north of Mercury.  Then on June 5th, it will reside only 5° south of the moon. Jupiter will rise 3-4 minutes earlier each day, and by the end of June it will be visible a full 2 hours before the sunrise.

At 5:00 in the middle of June, Jupiter is low on the horizon. Click for full-screen.
June DateRiseTransit (Highest)Set
0505:0812:2019:32
1504:3711:5019:04
2504:0511:2018:35

Saturn

Saturn shines brightly in our early morning sky at magnitude +1.1 and in the constellation of Aquarius, where it will remain for the rest of the year.  Its disk size increases slowly over the month to 17.9 arcseconds.

On June 27 Saturn and the moon will share the same right ascension, with the waning gibbous moon passing 4’38” to the north of Saturn.  At the same time, they will also make a close approach called an appulse, and will appear close to each other in the sky.

We should make the most of viewing this majestic gas giant, as the ring system continues to close and will ultimately appear edge-on by the spring of 2025.

Saturn is 32° high at 4:30 a.m. in mid-June. Click for full-screen.
June DateRiseTransit (Highest)Set
0501:5907:4113:24
1501:2007:0312:46
2500:4206:2512:07

Times are based on CDT (GMT-5) but are approximately correct for local time in most of the northern hemisphere.


Introducing The Planets

There are eight official planets in our solar system (if you thought there were nine, read this). We live on one of them, which leaves seven for us to look at in the night sky.

From the sun outwards, they are Mercury, Venus, [Earth], Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The first five of these (excluding Earth, of course) are known as the ‘visible planets’ because they’re bright enough to be easily seen in the night sky with the naked eye.

Each of these five planets looks wonderful through a telescope, with many different and dynamic features to try and observe.

If you’ve never seen the awesome sight of Jupiter’s cloud belts, Saturn’s rings, and Martian ice caps, then it’s time you checked out our reviews of the best telescopes to see the planets (opens in a new tab).

Seeing The Five Visible Planets in 2024

All 5 visible planets have great seeing at some point during this year, which you can see at a glance by scrolling down to the table below.

Before reading it though, it helps to understand why there are times when the planets are well placed for observing and others when they are not visible. Imagine the five planets split across two groups, the inferior and superior planets:

  • Inferior Planets: Mercury and Venus lie inside Earth’s orbit, closer to the Sun than we are
  • Superior Planets: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn lie outside Earth’s orbit, further from the Sun

The Best Time to See A Planet

The diagram below shows an idealized position of inferior planets (inner ring) and superior planets (outer ring) hitting conjunction, greatest elongation, and opposition with Earth (blue circle).

A guide to the conjunctions, oppositions and elongations of the inferior and superior planets.
A guide to conjunctions, oppositions, and elongations. (Source)

You can see that at both superior and inferior conjunctions the planet is in the same line of sight as the Sun, so we can’t see it in the sky; the Sun’s glare is too bright.

The best time to see superior planets is at opposition because they are directly opposite the sun but behind Earth (shown as a green ring in the diagram), which makes them visible in the sky all night long.

The best time to see inferior planets is at their Greatest Elongation.

When to See the Inferior Planets

Alignment of Mercury and Venus
Moon, Venus & Mercury (source)

Mercury and Venus orbit the Sun inside Earth’s orbit, which means a number of significant things:

  • They orbit faster than Earth, so they change position in the sky quickly
  • They present crescent phases to us like the Moon because we can see parts of the planets’ surfaces that are not facing the Sun
  • The best time to see them is at ‘greatest elongation’, which is when they appear to be at their farthest from the sun as we see them. 

The worst time to see the inferior planets is when they are in conjunction. This is the name given to the moment when Earth, the Sun, and the planet are all in a straight line.

There are two types of planetary conjunction, inferior and superior.

Superior conjunction is when the planet is on the opposite side of the Sun from us, i.e. the sun is in between us and the planet. Inferior conjunctions are when the planet is in the middle, i.e. it sits between us and the sun. Only Venus and Mercury have inferior conjunctions from our perspective because we’re closer to the sun than the rest of the planets.

The inner planets are invisible to us at and near conjunctions because they are lost in the glare of the Sun.

The occasional exception to this is when an inferior conjunction happens and the planet is on the same plane as us and the sun. When that happens we see a spectacular transit of Venus or Mercury across the face of the Sun.

Sadly, they are quite rare. To see Venus pass in front of the sun you need to be a young person, and ideally not even born yet because the next one is not until 2117. Fortunately, we all stand a better chance of seeing little Mercury cross the Sun’s disc but we still need to wait until 2032.

Mercury transiting the face of the sun in 2016.
Mercury is the tiny black disc just below and to the left of center. This happened in 2016. (Source)

The best time to see Venus and Mercury is when they are at greatest elongation, shown inside the pink rings on the diagram below. At greatest elongation, these planets are as far from the Sun as they get in our sky.

That still normally means challenging viewing for Mercury because the tiny planet orbits so close to the sun that it’s rarely visible for more than an hour before sunrise or after sunset; we only see it in the glow of dusk or dawn.

Venus orbits further out, so we do get to see it against the inky blackness of night, but it too sets or rises within a few hours of the Sun.

This brings us to the final point you need to be aware of as a planet hunter: at greatest eastern elongation, the planet is visible after sunset. At its greatest western elongation, we’ll see the planet in the morning, before sunrise.

When to See The Superior Planets

Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all orbit further away from the Sun than our planet does. For this reason, these planets are called superior and they have a different character in the sky from the inferior Mercury and Venus:

  • They take longer to complete an orbit of the Sun than Earth, which makes them appear to move only slowly across the night sky, i.e. they only move a short distance compared to the background constellations
  • Being inside their orbit, we can only see the side facing the sun, so they are always a complete disc. i.e. we never see them in crescent form
  • The best time to see the superior planets is at opposition

Just like Mercury and Venus, the superior planets also form [superior] conjunctions with Earth and the Sun. And, unsurprisingly, they too are invisible at this time because they are lost in the Sun’s glare.

The best time to see the outer planets of the solar system is at opposition. If you refer to the green circle in the diagram above, it’s easy to see why. Unlike the inferior planets, the outer planets never pass between Earth and the Sun. At opposition, we sit directly between them and the Sun. Think of it as having the Sun ‘behind’ us while the planet is ‘facing’ us.

This is an awesome time for planet-watching because a planet at opposition is visible all night long and highest in the sky (transiting) around midnight!

We get hours to see the planet high above the horizon during the hours of darkness. This often coincides with the planet’s closest approach to Earth too, offering even more spectacular views.


Which Planets Can I See in 2024?

For each of the five visible planets, the table below shows when it will be visible for each month of 2024. You can see whether it is visible in the evening (E) or morning (M), or not at all (—) because it is above the horizon during the day or too close to the sun.

Opposition months are shown for the superior planets. This means they’ll be visible all night long.

Conjunction dates are given for all the planets except Mercury, which only has greatest elongation dates show. Note that Mars doesn’t have either a conjunction or opposition in 2024.

Use this calendar as a ‘ready reckoner’ for what planets we can see this evening. For more detail on observing the visible planets, scroll beneath the calendar.

2024MercuryVenusMarsJupiterSaturn
JanmGE 12thMMEE
FebMMECon 28th
MareGE 24thMME
AprMEM
MaymGE 09thMCon 18thM
JunCon 12thMM
JuleGE 22ndMMM
AugMME
SepmGE 04thEMMOpp 07th
OctEEEE
NoveGE 16thEEEE
DecmGE 24thEEOpp 02ndE

mGE = Greatest Elongation visible morning, eGE = Greatest Elongation visible evening, Opp = Opposition, M = Morning, i.e. rises after midnight, E = Evening, i.e. rises before midnight, Con = Conjunction, — = Not Visible. For Mercury, only Greatest Elongation dates are shown but the planet will be visible for 1-2 weeks on either side of that date.

Mercury

For the smallest planet in the solar system, you may be wondering can we see Mercury from Earth, and the answer is a resounding yes! You can see Mercury without a telescope if you know when and where to look. However, of the five brightest planets, Mercury is definitely the trickiest one to glimpse.

For the best chance of success, find an elevated position, e.g. a hill that overlooks an open horizon. Mercury skirts so close to the ground – even at its best – that trees and buildings can prevent you from seeing it.

Planet Mercury
Planet Mercury (source)

The challenge to seeing Mercury comes from the short distance between it and the Sun, and the rapid orbit the planet has. Mercury orbits the Sun in only 88 days, so it completes well over four laps of the sun for every one of ours.

Mercury is so close to the sun that we can never see it in true darkness. Its proximity to the sun also means that the little planet is never very high in the sky – it rarely rises more than 10° above the horizon after sunset or before sunrise. Ten degrees is about the width of your fist at the end of your outstretched arm, i.e. it’s not very high.

Our time to see it is also limited. Even at its best seeing, Mercury is usually only visible for up to an hour before sunrise in the morning or after sunset in the evening. And, because of its rapid orbit, we don’t get to see Mercury for many days in a row either before it returns to the Sun’s glare.

Because Mercury is near the Sun, it’s visible in the west straight after sunset and in the east immediately before sunrise.

Mercury Seeing Challenges:

  • Mercury. Yes, your first challenge is to see the planet itself. Whilst it is bright, it’s always in the glare of the dawn or dusk low towards the horizon. Seeing the planet Mercury is a great first achievement!
  • Mercury’s phases. What is worth looking out for is the crescent of Mercury. Sky & Telescope Magazine always carry an almanac of how much of the surface is illuminated. (Read our Sky & Telescope review here).

Fact Box

Orbital Period: 88 days
Synodic Period: 116 days
Brightest Magnitude: -1.9
Moons: 0


Venus

The next planet out from Mercury is Venus, which is the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon.

Planet Venus without Clouds (source)

Like Mercury, Venus orbits relatively close to the Sun and is known as either a morning or evening ‘star’ because it either rises in the morning before the Sun or sets after it in the evening.

Unlike Mercury, Venus is far enough from the sun that we can see it in the darkness of nighttime and not just in the glow of dawn or dusk.

Venus also has crescent phases, like our own Moon, which can be seen through a small telescope (this link opens our favorite models in a new tab).  This is the only feature to observe on Venus because it has no moons of its own, nor any visible surface features.

Where Can You Find Venus?

Like all planets, Venus is found on the ecliptic but never strays too far from the western horizon when it’s an evening star or the eastern horizon in the morning.

The planet is unmistakably bright, shining much brighter than any other object in the night sky which makes it easy to view, even with a pair of binoculars.

At its furthest from the Sun, Venus can spend a few nights where it is visible all night long. From central latitudes of the US, it can climb about 30° above the horizon.

For more details click this link for our dedicated guide to seeing Venus with a telescope.

Venus Seeing Challenges:

Fact Box

Orbital Period: 224 days
Synodic Period: 583 days (approx. 1.5 years)
Brightest Magnitude: -4.6
Moons: 0


Mars

Passing our home planet, we begin the journey through the superior planets with Mars.

Mars showing south polar ice cap
Hubble picture of Planet Mars (source)

Famous to everyone, astronomer or not, the ease with which it can be picked out in the night sky varies. But, if you’ve ever wondered ‘can you see Mars without a telescope?’ the answer is a definite Yes! 

Mars reaches opposition approximately every two years. The last time we enjoyed one was in December 2022 and the next one is in January 2025.

The Red Planet spends much of its time a long way from Earth, making the disc small and putting most of its surface features out of reach of a regular backyard telescope. However, at the end of 2024, we’ll get much better views as the planet becomes one of the larger night sky objects.

Where Can You Find Mars?

Mars travels along the ecliptic, just like Venus and Mercury, but, being further away from the Sun than we are, Mars orbits our star more slowly.

Mars begins 2022 as a small morning object in the constellation of Ophiuchus before soon moving to Sagittarius.

The best time of the year to observe it is from around August onwards. Not only can we begin to see it in the late evening, but it will rapidly grow and reveal more of itself as it heads for its closest approach to Earth for two years in December.

Click here for our dedicated guide to seeing Mars with a telescope.

Mars Seeing Challenges:

There are lots of features we backyard astronomers can look for on the Martian surface but many of them are not available to us this year given the distance of the planet.

  • Redness of the disc. It is apparent in any size of telescope
  • Gibbous Shape. Mars does not show phases like the inner planets, but it is close enough that Earth casts a shadow on it at various times on its journey around the sun. This has the effect of giving Mars a gibbous shape which you’ll see in a ‘scope.
  • Polar Ice Caps. Easier to see in Martian winter. The last winter solstice was on July 21, 2022 and the next is on June 07 this year.
  • Shades of Color. Unless you have a truly enormous telescope you’re unfortunately not going to see detail in Mars’ surface features. However, you should be able to make out smudges of color, where darker and lighter areas of the Martian surface rub against each other.
  • Phobos and Deimos. Meaning fear and panic, these are the two small moons of Mars. They are very dim (magnitude 11.3 and 12.4 respectively) putting them beyond the reach of smaller scopes. You’ll need at least an 8” – 10″ aperture with decent seeing conditions to find them.
  • Dust Clouds. Mars experiences dust storms and you may be fortunate enough to see one of those through your scope. They don’t run to a schedule, so it’s all in the luck of your timing.

For more details click this link for our dedicated guide to seeing Mars with a telescope.

Fact Box

Orbital Period: 687 days
Synodic Period: 780 days (approx. 2 years)
Brightest Magnitude: -2.9
Moons: 2


Jupiter

The fourth of our five visible planets is the solar system’s giant: Jupiter.

Where is planet Jupiter tonight?
Planet Jupiter from Hubble (source)

Even though it is much further from us than Mars, the fact it’s well over a thousand times larger than the red planet means Jupiter shines more brightly than it in our skies. At its brightest, Jupiter is the third brightest object in the night sky, beaten only by Venus and the Moon.

So, if you’re wondering ‘can I see Jupiter without a telescope’, you absolutely can! It’s a bright planet and can be found in Taurus or Aries for most of 2024.

Whilst you can see Jupiter without a telescope, it is a great planet to look at with one. There is so much to see on its surface and you can see the brightest moons of Jupiter too. If you don’t own one yet, take a look at our reviews of the best telescopes.

Even binoculars will show you the famous Galilean moons of Jupiter and a small scope will bring out the different brightnesses of the bands on the planet’s surface, if not the colors themselves.

Jupiter Seeing Challenges:

  • Galilean moons. The four moons closest to Jupiter (from a total of 67 known moons) were discovered by Galileo Galilei over 400 years ago 1610. Outwards from the planet, they are Io, Europa, Ganymede (itself bigger than planet Mercury), and Callisto.
    They are easily visible as pinpricks of light on either side of Jupiter when they’re not behind it. They move quickly and this almanac from Sky & Telescope will tell you which ones can be seen on any given day.
  • Bands of Color. Jupiter is famous for its gas bands and even a relatively small telescope will show you the main bands as faint shades of grey. Larger scopes will reveal more detail and some color.
  • Great Red Spot. This is perhaps Jupiter’s most famous feature, which is why we have a dedicated guide to seeing the Great Red Spot. You’ll need a decent magnification (250x) to see it, and this almanac to make sure you’re looking for it at the right time.
  • Moon Transits. Seeing the moons themselves is simple, but can you see them and their shadows cross in front of the planet? With good seeing, optics, and this almanac, you’ll be proud of managing to see one of these events.

For more details click this link for our dedicated guide to seeing Jupiter with a telescope.

Jupiter

Fact Box

Orbital Period: 4330 days (12 years)
Synodic Period: 398 days (13 months)
Brightest Magnitude: -2.7
Moons: 67, but the four Galilean moons are the ones to look at


Saturn

Next, we come to the last of the five planets visible from Earth with the naked eye. And, for many, the most spectacular to look at with a telescope.

Saturn and her glorious rings (source)

If you’re wondering “can I see Saturn without a telescope?” you absolutely can! At its brightest Saturn’s light outshines every star – only the moon and four closer planets beat it, so it’s easy to pick out.

For many astronomers, nothing beats their first view of Saturn and its awe-inspiring rings through the eyepiece of a telescope. It’s a pleasing and surreal sight that keeps many of us coming back to the ringed planet time and again.

Where Can You Find Saturn?

Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant and even with its truly enormous distance from us it shines brightly in the sky and is easy to pick out with the naked eye.

Saturn’s distance from the Sun means it takes a leisurely 30 years to orbit the sun so, throughout 2024, it doesn’t move much against the background of stars. The planet spends almost the whole year in the constellation of Aquarius.

Saturn Seeing Challenges:

  • Saturn’s rings. Of course, this is where we start! In 2018 the rings appeared wider (more angled towards Earth) than since 2003. They will be edge-on to us in March 2025, so they’re really shallow this year.
  • Binoculars won’t show them, but even the most modest telescope will reveal their glory.
  • Individual rings. With a larger telescope and more magnification, it’s a good challenge to break the rings down into their component parts: rings A, B, C, and D, and the Cassini Division.
  • Titan. Saturn’s largest moon (which, like Ganymede, is also larger than Mercury) shines at magnitude 8.3 and is visible with a 4” scope.
    It orbits quite a distance from the planet but is relatively easy to find if you look at the right time.
    There are another 61 moons around Saturn, but none even close to the size of Titan. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have an 8” scope, you could try spotting the next four largest moons, which are Enceladus, Dione, Tethys, and Rhea. Use this almanac to help you find them.
Saturn

Fact Box

Orbital Period: 10,759 days (29.5 years)
Synodic Period: 378 days (54 weeks)
Brightest Magnitude: -0.5
Moons: 62, but Titan biggest by far


Can I See Uranus and Neptune Tonight?

Uranus and Neptune are the last two planets in the solar system.

We’ve not covered them in detail as they are a much harder spot than the other five, but they may be a challenge you want to take on as you become more proficient at looking around the sky with your telescope.

Click here for our detailed guide to seeing Uranus.

Click here for our detailed guide to seeing Neptune.

You’ll need a magnification of at least 100x to see the disc of Uranus and more for Neptune. You’ll also need a detailed finder chart for Uranus and Neptune so you know where to look.

It can be hard to know if you’ve found what you’re looking for, but they both shine with a blue/green light and, of course, they move over successive nights with respect to the background stars.

Summary & Resources

All five visible planets put on spectacular shows at various points in 2024. Mercury looks best in January’s morning sky, Mars becomes prominent at the end of the year, heading for its closest approach in two years at the start of 2025, and Saturn and Jupiter reach opposition in December and September, respectively.

Each planet offers its own unique challenges from simple to moderately difficult.

Make a reminder to look for Mercury and Venus when they are at greatest elongation. For Jupiter and Saturn, you’ll see the most detail when they are at opposition.

2024 Opposition Dates for the Planets

  • Mars – no opposition this year
  • Jupiter – 02 December
  • Saturn – 07 September
  • Uranus – 16 November
  • Neptune – 20 September

Planet-Finding Resources

These are some useful resources to help you further with your planet observation.


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