5 Planets You Can See In October 2016, No Telescope Required
If you're hooked on skywatching, you're probably wondering how this month will top September's night skies. The celestial activities of the next few weeks may not be quite as varied as last month's, but there are five planets you can see in October 2016. The best part? The planets will be bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye — no fancy telescopes required, although binoculars may help.
Between the Black Moon and two varieties of eclipses, September was a heavenly month for the amateur astronomers out there. (Amateur astrologists, meanwhile, had a rather less fun time after all that Ophiuchus business threw a proverbial wrench in the works.) October's main attraction is the Draconid meteor shower, which peaks on Oct. 7, but you'll also be able to catch sight of five planets: Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Over the course of the month, some of the planets will cross each other's paths, a phenomenon known as a conjunction — you may have heard of it before in relation to astrology.
The night sky is vast, so where do you start looking? Here's your guide to the five planets visible without any technological help this month. Happy stargazing!
Mercury & Jupiter
According to Space.com, Mercury is visible at dawn for the first 10 days of October; it should be in the eastern sky, close to the horizon. In the meantime, Jupiter is ascending, and on Oct. 11, Jupiter will pass less than a degree away from Mercury, forming the first of two conjunctions this month. According to Space.com, this can be seen "very low above the eastern horizon about 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise"; binoculars may be helpful to distinguish the planets. (Jupiter is on the right, and Mercury on the left.) Not long afterward, Mercury will fade from view in the mornings as it inches lower in the sky, while Jupiter continues its upward journey.
Venus & Saturn
That leaves us with Venus and Saturn. Although their conjunction comes much later in the month, Venus' ascent can be seen in the west-southwestern sky after sunset. On Oct. 29, Venus will pass by Saturn on the ringed planet's lower left. The conjunction will occur in the low southwestern sky, about 45 minutes after the sun sets. Saturn will be far dimmer than Venus, so you may want to break out the binoculars again to distinguish between the planets.
Finally, Mars is also visible this month, but it's fading as time goes on. The red planet can be found in the southwestern evening sky, slowly moving eastward. According to EarthSky, you can use the Scorpius constellation as a guide to find Mars. Around Oct. 8, look for Antares, the brightest star in the constellation, and you should be able to see Mars (as well as Saturn and the moon) nearby. Saturn will continue to dim as it travels westward, but Mars will keep shining in the evening into November.