Above graphic: Relative sizes (but not the distances) of the planets to scale.
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, March 2018 should be a great month for catching all 5 bright planets. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll have your chance to catch all 5 in April 2018.
By bright planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
With a little effort, Mercury and Venus will be relatively easy to view after sunset at northerly latitudes. But they won’t be that easy to see from temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, where these two worlds set almost immediately after the sun. We elaborate on the March evening planets on our Tonight post for March 3.
Click here for a sky almanac giving you the setting times of the sun, Mercury and Venus in your sky.
As for the superior planets, Jupiter rises first, followed by Mars and then Saturn. They’ll all come up quite late at night, especially as viewed from northerly latitudes. Although Mercury and Venus set much sooner after sunset at southerly latitudes, the planets Jupiter, Mars and Saturn also rise much earlier at night at southerly latitudes. The gap between Mars and Saturn will narrow all month long, until the conjunction of Mars and Saturn takes place in early April 2018.
Click here for a sky almanac giving you the rising times for Jupiter, Mars and Saturn in your sky.
If you’re a complete novice at planet watching, let the moon assist you at locating the planets this month. In the course of one month, the moon passes by every planet, staying in the vicinity of each planet for a few days of the month.
This month, in March 2018, try your luck at catching all five bright planets.