Eric: Spot 5 different planets through August

Evening planet parade (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Evening planet parade (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: Aug. 14, 2018 at 9:21 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The next few weeks will offer sky watchers an opportunity to see five planets with the naked eye. You just need to know where, and when, to look.

Step outside this evening just as the sun has set and the sky begins to darken. Looking west, let the slender crescent moon be your guide to the first two planets. Bright Venus is just to the right of the moon with bright Jupiter to the left. Both stand out in the evening sky.

A good rule for judging the difference between a planet and star: stars twinkle while planets don't. This effect is the result of distance. Stars are farther away and the pinpoint light passing through our atmosphere is forced to change direction. The end result is the familiar shimmer we see in the night sky. Planets are closer, appearing as disks as opposed to a pinpoint of light. Planets shine steadier and the light is more constant. This is a great rule of thumb for telling the difference between a planet and star in a pinch. It's not always 100 percent full-proof, but it will get you by.

Once you've located Venus and Jupiter, turn toward the south. Mars sticks out for it's orange glow with Saturn to the right appearing slightly dimmer. So where is the 5th planet? Look down. It's Earth. You can't miss it. The show remains on display, although aligned slightly different each night through the month of August.

Get out and enjoy!

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