Finding and observing the planets of the Solar System in the night sky isn't as tricky as you think. You just need to know where to look.

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When a planet is in a particularly favourable position in the evening or morning sky, it will look like a bright 'star', the most obvious point of light visible to the naked eye.

The other thing about spotting the planets in the night sky is that they can also be found along the ecliptic, which is the imaginary line that the Sun appears to traverse in the sky over the course of a day.

A panorama showing the Milky Way (centre) and planets. Mars is bright to the left, Saturn is dimmer and bright Jupiter is right. The arcing line joining the planets defines the arc of the ecliptic. Credit: Alan Dyer / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images
A panorama showing the Milky Way (centre) and planets. Mars is bright to the left, Saturn is dimmer and bright Jupiter is right. The arcing line joining the planets defines the arc of the ecliptic. Credit: Alan Dyer / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Since the major planets of the Solar System orbit the Sun in about the same plane, the ecliptic also marks the path of the planets.

Is it bright, but on the wrong side of the sky to the ecliptic? Then it's not a planet.

For more advice, read our guide on how to find planets in the night sky.

Once you've got to grips with this, all you need to know is what planets will be visible in the night each month, so you know what to look out for, and what dates they will be best placed.

Jupiter, Mars and Saturn imaged at ESO's La Silla Observatory in the Atacama desert. Credit: ESO
Jupiter, Mars and Saturn imaged at ESO's La Silla Observatory in the Atacama desert. Credit: ESO

This is where our guide below comes in. Use it throughout the coming 12 months to find out which planets are visible in the night sky in 2022, which are at opposition, and to keep track of any interesting upcoming conjunctions.

Check our Astronomy Advice section throughout the year for more up-to-date stargazing tips, and sign up to the BBC Sky at Night Magazine e-newsletter for lunar phases and monthly astronomy highlights delivered direct to your email inbox.

You can also listen to our Star Diary podcast each month for even more advice on what to see in the night sky.

Jupiter (the bright spot in the centre) appears near Saturn (8 o'clock of Jupiter) against the backdrop of the Milky Way, Pune, India, 5 May 2019. On 21 December 2020 the two planets will appear much closer in the night sky. Credit: Pratham Gokhale/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Jupiter (the bright spot in the centre) appears near Saturn (8 o'clock of Jupiter) against the backdrop of the Milky Way, Pune, India, 5 May 2019. Credit: Pratham Gokhale/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Observing planets in 2023: month-by-month

January 2023

  • 1 January: Lunar occultation of Uranus
  • 3 January: Moon and Mars close in the evening sky
  • 3/4 January: Quadrantid meteor shower peak (unfavourable)
  • 21/22 January: Venus close to Saturn
  • 31 January: Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF reaches peak brightness

Mercury

A great planet for evening viewing. Mercury nears Venus on 1 January, after that it is hard to see. Poorly placed at the end of the month.

Venus

A brilliant planet for evening viewing. Venus is near Mercury on 1 January and Saturn on 22 January. Best at the end of the month.

Mars

Well-positioned evening planet, reaching 60o altitude. Shrinks from 14-10 arcseconds over the month.

Chart showing the timings for the lunar occultation of Uranus, 1 January 2023
Credit: Pete Lawrence

Jupiter

Evening planet best at the start of the month, then losing altitude. Moon close on 25 and 26 January.

Saturn

Best viewing at the start of the month. Near Venus on 21 and 22 January and the Moon on 23 Jan.

Uranus

Well-placed evening planet shining at mag. +5.7. Occulted by the Moon on 1 January.

Neptune

Deteriorating evening planet, close to Jupiter. Losing altitude by the end of the month.

February 2023

  • All month: Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF favourable
  • 13-17 February: Lunar libration favours Mare Orientale
  • 15 February: Close encounter of Venus and Neptune
  • 27 February: Venus approaches Jupiter
  • 28 February: Morning Moon near Mars

Mercury

Poor morning positioning and brightness make Mercury hard to see this month.

Venus

Bright evening planet. Near Neptune on 14/15 February, closing on Jupiter at the end of February.

Mars

Well-placed and good altitude when due south. Shrinks from 10 to 8 arcseconds throughout February.

Jupiter

Bright evening planet, loses altitude throughout the month. Near Venus on 28 February.

Venus Neptune 14 15 February 2023
Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

In conjunction with the Sun on 16 February and not visible this month.

Uranus

Evening planet. Uranus reaches 50o altitude in darkness at the start of the month, but drops rapidly thereafter.

Neptune

Poorly located in the evening sky. Close encounter with Venus on 14/15 February, just 20 arcminutes apart. But the UK will miss the closest approach of 47 arcseconds.

March 2023

  • 1-5 March: Venus and Jupiter very close
  • 20 March: Spring equinox at 21:25 UT
  • 21 March: Dwarf planet Ceres at opposition in Coma Berenices
  • 24 March: Moon near Venus in daylight
  • 30 March: Venus near Uranus

Mercury

Best at the end of the month in the evening sky. Near to Jupiter on 27 March.

Venus

Lovely evening planet. Close to Jupiter in the first week. Moon close on 23 and 24 March.

Mars

Declining evening planet. Still well presented but fading and shrinking. Mars is near the open cluster M35 on 30 March.

Jupiter

Evening planet near Venus early March, but poorly placed. Moon close on 22 March. Near Mercury on 27 March.

Venus and Jupiter have a close encounter at the start of March 2023, best seen as they approach the western horizon
Venus and Jupiter have a close encounter at the start of March 2023, best seen as they approach the western horizon. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Poorly located morning planet, unlikely to be seen this month, so not worth trying to view.

Uranus

Deteriorating evening planet, losing altitude throughout the month. Uranus is near Venus on 30 March.

Neptune

Too close to the Sun to be seen this month, so not worth trying to view.

April 2023

  • 9 & 10 April: Venus near the Pleiades
  • 11 April: Favourable evening elongation of planet Mercury
  • 21 April: Lunar libration favours eastern limb
  • 23 April: Lyrid meteor shower peak (favourable)
  • 25 April: Waxing crescent Moon near Mars

Mercury

Evening planet, best at the start and middle of April. Sets two hours after sunset on 11 April.

Venus

Brilliant evening object, setting four hours after sunset at month end. Near the Pleaides on 10 April.

Mars

Fading evening planet, 9 arcminutes from Mebsuta (Epsilon (ε) Geminorum) on 14 April. Small when seen with a telescope.

Jupiter

Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun on 11 April and not visible this month.

With no major Moon interference, the 2023 Lyrid meteor shower peak on the night of 22/23 April is looking favourable
With no major Moon interference, the 2023 Lyrid meteor shower peak on the night of 22/23 April is looking favourable. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Saturn is a morning object, but it is not well-placed and is unlikely to be seen, so not worth trying to view.

Uranus

Poorly located evening planet. 4º from Mercury on 19 April but tricky to see.

Neptune

Neptune is a morning object but lost in the dawn twilight, so not worth trying to view.

May 2023

  • 11 May: Northern regions of the Moon well presented
  • 17 May: Daylight lunar occultation of Jupiter for the north of the UK
  • 22 May: Approximate start of noctilucent cloud season
  • 27 May: Stars of Aristillus clair-obscur effect visible on this evening’s Moon
  • 30 May: Venus reaches predicted 50% phase

Mercury

Inferior conjunction 1 May, Mercury is poorly placed in the morning sky thereafter, so it is unlikely to be seen.

Venus

This spectacular evening planet has a crescent phase at the end of the month. The Moon is close on 22 and 23 May, so it is well worth a look.

Mars

Evening planet, now very small telescopically. Close to M44 at the end of the month.

Jupiter

Morning planet, not well-placed. Occulted by the Moon from the north of the UK on 17 May.

The northern part of the UK will experience a rare daylight lunar occultation of the planet Jupiter on 17 May 2023
The northern part of the UK will experience a rare daylight lunar occultation of the planet Jupiter on 17 May 2023. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Poorly positioned morning planet. Saturn remains low as the day breaks, so it is probably not worth the effort.

Uranus

Uranus is in conjunction with the Sun on 9 May and so not currently visible.

Neptune

Neptune is a morning object but lost in the dawn twilight.

June 2023

  • All month: Noctilucent cloud displays are possible
  • 4 June: Venus lies at greatest evening elongation
  • 17 June: Earliest sunrise of the year
  • 21 June: Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice at 15:57 BST (14:57 UT)
  • 25 June: Latest sunset of the year

Mercury

The planet makes a disappointing morning appearance, but is best mid to late June. The Moon is nearby on 16 June.

Venus

Spectacular evening planet. Greatest eastern elongation (45.4o) on 4 June. Visibility deteriorating. Moon nearby on 21 June.

Mars

Low evening planet, which is best at the start of June when crossing M44, the Beehive Cluster. But the view is compromised by twilight.

Jupiter

Low morning planet. Waning crescent Moon 0.6o to the north of Jupiter on 14 June at 06:00 BST (05:00 UT).

In 2023 the earliest sunrise and latest sunset both occur in June
In 2023 the earliest sunrise and latest sunset both occur in June. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Poorly placed morning planet. Moon close on 10 June.

Uranus

Not visible this month.

Neptune

Neptune is a morning object but lost in the dawn twilight, so tricky to view.

July 2023

  • All month: Noctilucent cloud display season continues
  • All month: Ninth magnitude Comet C/2020 V2 ZTF favourable
  • 12 July: Early morning Jupiter near the Moon
  • 13 July: Early morning Moon near the Pleiades cluster, M45
  • 27 July: ‘Jewelled handle’ clair obscur effect visible on this evening’s Moon

Mercury

Poorly positioned evening planet, best seen mid-month, but low in the west-northwest as the sky darkens.

Venus

Best at the start of July, as by the end of the month it is setting before the Sun. Currently in a very thin crescent phase.

Mars

Well positioned evening planet, which is low in the west as twilight darkens. Mars is near Venus at the start of July.

Jupiter

Improving morning planet, best at the end of the month. There is a waning crescent Moon nearby on 12 July.

Ninth magnitude comet C/2020 V2 ZTF starts July 2023 near Jupiter and Uranus. Starting at mag. +9.4, it’s expected to reach +9.1 mid-September, thereafter fading again.
Ninth magnitude comet C/2020 V2 ZTF starts July 2023 near Jupiter and Uranus. Starting at mag. +9.4, it’s expected to reach +9.1 mid-September, thereafter fading again. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Morning planet, best at the end of July. The Moon is close on 7 July.

Uranus

Morning planet, best at the end of July. Jupiter is relatively close.

Neptune

Morning planet, southeast of the Circlet asterism. Best at month end.

August 2023

  • All month: Venus visible as a thin crescent
  • 1 & 31 August: Two perigee full Moons this month, also known as ‘supermoons’
  • 9 August: Morning scene of Jupiter, Hyades, the Pleiades and crescent Moon
  • 12/13 August: Perseid meteor shower peak (favourable)
  • 27 August: Saturn at opposition

Mercury

Poorly located evening planet. Mercury is best viewed on 1 August, but it will be very low in the west.

Venus

This bright morning planet is best observed at the end of the month, where it will be low in the east before sunrise.

Mars

Poor evening planet, best at the start of August, but hardly visible.

Jupiter

Brilliant morning planet reaching peak altitude under darker skies at the end of August.

Venus is at inferior conjunction on 13 August 2023, when it will pass 7.7o to the south of the Sun. Only attempt to view this if you’re experienced.
Venus is at inferior conjunction on 13 August 2023, when it will pass 7.7o to the south of the Sun. Only attempt to view this if you’re experienced. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Opposition on 27 August when the rings will brighten. The Moon is close on 2, 3 and 30 August.

Uranus

Morning planet, 50o in altitude at the end of the month, near Jupiter.

Neptune

Morning planet southeast of Circlet asterism in Pisces. Well placed at the end of the month.

September 2023

  • 4 September: Moon near Jupiter
  • 11 September: Morning crescent Moon near Beehive Cluster, M44
  • 14 September: Good opportunity to spot the thin crescent Moon
  • 20 September: Neptune at opposition
  • 29 September: Harvest full Moon

Mercury

Greatest western elongation on 22 September with the bright planet rising 100 minutes before sunrise.

Venus

Impressively bright morning planet, visible against dark skies at the end of the month, rising four hours before sunrise.

Mars

Not visible this month.

Jupiter

Bright morning planet reaching its highest position under darkness from mid-month. The Moon is close on 4/5 September.

A Harvest Moon. Credit: Jim Kruger / Getty Images
The full Moon on 29 September is the Harvest Moon for 2023, the closest full Moon to the vernal equinox on 23 September Credit: Jim Kruger / Getty Images

Saturn

Evening planet, currently well presented. Reaches 24º altitude under dark sky conditions.

Uranus

Morning planet near Jupiter. Peak altitude, due south, in a dark sky mid-month onwards.

Neptune

Binocular planet, reaching opposition on 20 September.

October 2023

  • 1 October: Morning Moon close to Jupiter
  • 5 October: Ganymede’s shadow transits Jupiter (21:46-23:52 UT)
  • 13 October: Comet 103P Hartley near NGC 2392
  • 21/22 October: Orionid meteor shower peak (favourable)
  • 28 October: Small partial lunar eclipse

Mercury

Best during first week of October, bright in the morning. Lost after.

Venus

Brilliant morning planet at greatest western elongation on 24 October, 46.4º from the Sun.

Mars

Not visible this month.

Jupiter

Jupiter is very bright (mag. -2.8) and really well placed this month in southern Aries.

A small partial lunar eclipse occurs on the evening of 28 October 2023, the extreme southern part of the Moon being clipped by Earth’s dark, umbral shadow between 20:35-21:53 BST (19:35-20:53 UT)
A small partial lunar eclipse occurs on the evening of 28 October 2023, the extreme southern part of the Moon being clipped by Earth’s dark, umbral shadow between 20:35-21:53 BST (19:35-20:53 UT). Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Well placed evening planet in Aquarius. A gibbous Moon is nearby on the evenings of 23 and 24 October.

Uranus

Well-placed near Botein (Delta (δ) Arietis). Jupiter nearby; both joined by a gibbous Moon on 1/2 October.

Neptune

Well-placed evening planet. Reaches highest point, due south in darkness all month. Requires binoculars to see.

November 2023

  • 3 November: Jupiter reaches opposition
  • 9 November: Daylight lunar occultation of Venus
  • 10 November: Excellent transit of Ganymede and its shadow from 17:15 UT
  • 13 November: Uranus reaches opposition
  • 17/18 November: Leonid meteor shower peak (favourable)

Mercury

Evening planet, not really viable this month due to low altitude after sunset.

Venus

Bright morning planet, visible against dark skies all month.

Mars

Solar conjunction on 17 November. Too close to the Sun to be seen this month.

Jupiter

Superbly placed, reaching opposition on 3 November. Attains 50º altitude when due south.

A rare lunar occultation of Venus can be seen during the day on 9 November 2023. Venus will be showing a 58%-lit phase and appear 1/90th the apparent size of the Moon.
A rare lunar occultation of Venus can be seen during the day on 9 November 2023. Venus will be showing a 58%-lit phase and appear 1/90th the apparent size of the Moon. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Well-placed evening planet. Moon close on 20 November.

Uranus

The planet is at opposition on 13 November. It sits 2.2º south of Botein (Delta (δ) Arietis).

Neptune

Well-placed evening planet. All month Neptune reaches its highest position in darkness. Binoculars will be needed in order to see the planet this month.

December 2023

  • 9 December: Morning waning crescent Moon near Venus
  • 13 December: Earliest sunset of the year
  • 13/14 & 14/15: December Geminid meteor shower peak (favourable)
  • 21 December: Vesta reaches opposition
  • 30 December: Latest sunrise of the year

Mercury

Best in the morning sky on 31 December, Mercury is visible one hour before sunrise low above the southeast horizon.

Venus

Bright morning planet, best at start of December when near Spica (Alpha (α) Virginis). The Moon is close on 9 December.

Mars

Currently in the morning sky, but too close to the Sun to see well.

Jupiter

Superb, bright, evening planet. The Moon lies nearby on the evenings of 21 and 22 December.

Minor planet Vesta reaches opposition on 21 December 2023 when it will shine at mag. +6.3 against the stars of northern Orion.
Minor planet Vesta reaches opposition on 21 December 2023 when it will shine at mag. +6.3 against the stars of northern Orion. Credit: Pete Lawrence

Saturn

Well-placed in early December, but loses altitude later in the month. The Moon is close on 17 December.

Uranus

Well-placed evening planet, near Jupiter. 3º south of Botein (Delta (δ) Arietis).

Neptune

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Evening planet south of the Circlet. Loses altitude towards month end.

Authors

Pete Lawrence, astronomer and BBC The Sky at Night presenter.
Pete LawrenceAstronomer and presenter

Pete Lawrence is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer, and a presenter on BBC's The Sky at Night.