Three planets – Mercury, Venus and Saturn – can be seen first thing at evening dusk throughout June 2013. You have to catch Mercury and Venus in the glow of evening twilight, no later than about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset. Both of these worlds will follow the sun beneath the horizon at late dusk or nightfall. Meanwhile, Saturn is closer to overhead when night falls and stays out until the wee hours of the morning.
If you can’t catch Venus and Mercury low in western twilight these new few evenings, try using the waxing crescent moon to locate Venus and then Mercury on June 10, 11 and 12. As always, look low in the west-northwest sky as dusk begins to give way to night.
Saturn, in contrast, is seen highest up for the night around 9 p.m. local time (10 p.m. local daylight-saving time) for all time zones around the world. Thereafter Saturn slowly starts to descend westward throughout the nighttime hours, but won’t set in the west until well past midnight. Look for the moon to pair up with Saturn on the June 18 and 19.
There are five visible planets. By visible planet, we mean any planet that can easily be seen with the unaided eye and that has been known to our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, (Earth), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. So where are Jupiter and Mars this month? As seen from Earth, the giant planet Jupiter passes behind the sun in June 2013, to transition from the evening to the morning sky. And Mars sits low in the glare of morning dawn all month long. For all practical purposes, Jupiter and Mars are invisible throughout June 2013.
Mars sits low in the east-northeast at dawn so the red planet is extremely hard to see in June 2013. You’ll have a much better chance of spotting Mars and Jupiter in the predawn and dawn sky in late July 2013, especially when Jupiter and Mars meet up for a close conjunction on July 22.
Bottom line: You can view three of the five visible planets – Mercury, Venus and Saturn – as dusk darkens into evening, and possibly a fourth planet – Mars – shortly before sunrise in late June!