Sommers-Bausch Observatory - University of Colorado

Monthly Planet Positions

The following graphics show the locations of the planets as they appear to an observer looking down from space in the "northern" hemisphere of the sky. The solar system is presented on two different scales, since the distances between the Sun and the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are so different when compared with the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). The graphic of the inner planets shows their relative positions starting at the first of the month, and terminating at the end of the month, with the planets labelled at mid-month. Only the positions of the outer planets at mid-month are shown due to their small motions.

Inner Planets
April 2015


Outer Planets
April 2015


By thinking carefully about where you are on the Earth with respect to the Sun at a given time, you can get a feel for which planets should be visible to you. Imagine yourself as a little stick person standing on the green dot of the Earth in the pictures above, and pretend it is noon-time. You'll be standing with the Sun directly over your head. A line drawn from you on the Earth to the Sun represents where the Sun is at "noon", which, as you know, will be due south of you at that time. If you're anywhere on that half of the Earth facing the Sun, you won't see any of the planets (even if they are "up") because it will be broad daylight.

However, if it's early evening, you'll have rotated (while standing on the Earth) 90 degrees counter-clockwise - and the line for "due south" will have rotated 90 degrees clockwise with you as well. The Sun will be setting off to your right (western horizon). Any planets "straight ahead" will be "up", roughly due south of you, at the time. Planets off to the left will be rising in the east from your perspective.

Ad midnight you'll be facing directly away from the Sun, and of course the sky will be completely dark. Things to your right (west) will be setting, things straight ahead will be high in the midnight sky, and things to your left (east) will be rising.

At dawn, your southerly line-of-sight will have rotated 270 degrees counterclockwise from noon when you started. From your vantage point on the Earth, you'll see the Sun to your left (rising in the east). Objects ahead (south) of you will be morning objects, and the things that were high in the sky at midnight will now be setting in the west (your left).

Note any planets lying along your line-of-sight to the Sun (either between you and the Sun, or on the opposite side of the Sun) won't be visible to you at all because they'll be lost in the solar glare. However, planets lying just a little to the left (counterclockwise) from the Sun can be seen in the west as "evening stars" after the Sun has set. If the planets lie just a little to the right (clockwise) from the Sun, they'll appear in the east as "morning stars". Planets directly opposite the Sun are said to be "at opposition" (what else?), and will be highest at midnight, but visible all night long.

These maps were generated with KStars software.