Observing the Planets
Many casual observers are often astonished when the bright ‘star’ they have seen from their city sky over several nights turns out to be Venus or Mars. Like the Moon, the brighter planets make excellent observing targets from any urban or suburban sky. In addition to their convenient magnitude, aspects of their appearance are constantly changing, making for an interesting comparison over time. The Great Red Spot in Jupiter’s atmosphere can be seen to shift considerably over an hour or two through even a small instrument as the planet rotates. Similarly, the apparent size and phase of Venus can change dramatically over a few weeks.