If you’re eager to do more stargazing this year, now’s the time. All year long, there are opportunities to enjoy the night sky, from basic stargazing sights to asteroids, moons, planets, nebula, and galaxies that require equipment to enjoy the view.
In this post, you’ll learn how to see each celestial object in our solar system, from the sun and moon to the visible planets – and those planets you can only see with binoculars or a telescope.
Need to invest in binoculars or a telescope? Any pair of binoculars you have at home will help, or you can invest in binoculars created specifically to help with stargazing. Celestron offers two good options: the affordable Cometron 7×50 and the more expensive but more equipped SkyMaster Giant 15×70 with Tripod Adapter. Depending on your interest, you can find the pair that’s right for you. If you’re ready to invest in a telescope, the Celestron PowerSeeker 127EQ Telescope is a good starting telescope at an affordable price.
In most cases, the dates recommended in this post use the moon or another planet to help you spot the planet or celestial object in question. If you’re just starting out in astronomy, using planets and stars to ‘star hop’ and find what you’re looking for is a good way to get familiar with the night sky. As such, there are plenty of other nights to see many of these planets, but if you need a little help to find them, the dates provided here will give you the best chance.
Don’t forget to check out the other two posts in this series:
- What To See In The Night Sky In 2019: Stargazing Sights (Part I)
- What to See in the Night Sky in 2019: With a Telescope (Part III)
When & How to See the Sun in 2109
You might think: why do I need to see the sun? It’s visible almost every day (except cloudy ones)!
The sun is still pretty special, and each year there are interesting opportunities to see the sun in a new way. In 2019, you have the chance to see all three kinds of solar eclipse – when the sun is blocked in part or in full by the moon:
- On January 6th, a partial solar eclipse will pass across Eastern Asia. While the moon won’t fully block the sun, partial eclipses are a great opportunity to understand the mechanics of eclipses. Don’t forget to wear protective eyewear though, as it’s never safe to view a partial solar eclipse without protective eclipse glasses!
- On July 2nd, a total solar eclipse will pass across parts of the South Pacific, Chile, and Argentina. This winter eclipse doesn’t have the best probability of good weather, but experiencing the totality of a total solar eclipse is an almost spiritual experience you’ll never forget! Even if you can’t see the eclipse, be sure to plan a trip to the Elqui Valley, a hot spot for astrotourism in Chile. Learn more about the 2019 total solar eclipse in our comprehensive guide.
- On December 25th, an annular solar eclipse will pass across a small number of countries and the rest of the region will see a partial eclipse too. Often called a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse for the distinctive way the moon doesn’t fully block the sun, there is no point during the annular eclipse where it’s safe to view without protective eclipse glasses.
While all three of these eclipses aren’t easy for viewers in North America or Europe to see, die-hard umbraphiles will consider it worth the trip to see at least one of these solar eclipses in 2019.
When & How to See the Moon in 2109
Similarly, the moon might seem overrated – we see it almost every night, and we take for granted how special it is that our moon is so close and so beautiful. In addition to admiring the moon any time you go stargazing in 2019, there are two lunar eclipses worth trying to see:
- On the night of January 20th-21st, a total lunar eclipse will pass across both North America and South America, as well as parts of western and northern Europe. This traditional ‘blood moon’ eclipse will see the moon turn a bright red as the moon passes into the shadow of the earth. Depending on where you view the eclipse, it may occur any time between just after sunset on January 20th to the early morning hours of January 21st. Learn more about the 2019 total lunar eclipse in our comprehensive guide.
- On the night of July 16th-17th, a partial lunar eclipse will allow most of the eastern hemisphere to see the moon turn partly red. Unlike a total lunar eclipse, the moon will not pass completely into the earth’s shadow during this lunar eclipse, so only part of the moon will gain the distinctive reddish hue. The western part of the world to see this eclipse will do so in the post-sunset and night hours of July 16th, whereas eastern part will experience it in the early morning and pre-dawn hours of July 17th.
Did you know that a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse always happen close together (exactly two weeks apart)? This means that in early 2020, the world will experience another lunar eclipse following the December 25th annular solar eclipse. Mark your calendars!
When & How to See Mercury in 2109
Photo credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr
Mercury is one of the five visible planets we can see from earth… but it’s also the most difficult to see. Mercury is located so close to the sun that it’s rare to have an opportunity to see it on its own! In 2019, there are two good opportunities to see Mercury (if you’re trying to see all of the main objects in our solar system this year):
- On June 18th, you’ll have the only opportunity of the year to easily spot Mercury, as it passes within 0°13′ of Mars. Both Mars and Mercury will appear low in the western sky just after sunset, so you’ll need a good view of the western horizon to try and spot tiny, bright Mercury before it sets too. You can view Mercury and Mars on this date with the unaided eye, binoculars, or a telescope.
- On November 11th, Mercury will transit the sun. This means Mercury will cross directly in front of the sun, creating a small black silhouette. This is the first Mercury transit since May 2016, and the last one until November 2032! To view this Mercury transit, you don’t need any special viewing equipment, but you will need solar eye protection (such as solar eclipse glasses). You can also use binoculars or a telescope, but don’t forget to put a solar filter on those lenses so you don’t damage them! The Mercury transit will be visible across the Americas, Europe, and Africa.
Mercury is hard to spot but well worth it! Good luck getting a decent view of this tiny planet in the coming year.
When & How to See Venus in 2019
Photo credit: Art Ivakin via Flickr
Venus is typically easy to spot because it is bright and beautiful in the night sky whenever it’s visible. If you want to see Venus in 2019, typically you only need to go up and look for the bright yellow-white planet if it’s in the sky.
Venus will have a close approach with the moon on six nights in 2019: January 1st, January 31st, March 2nd, April 1st, November 28th, and December 28th. On each of these nights, Venus and the moon will pass between 2°32′ and 0°05′ of each other; on the closest nights (January 31st and December 28th) it will be possible to view them through the same telescope view. 2019 is actually a great year to view Venus because on all of these nights, the moon will be a crescent moon, less than 15% illuminated, and not causing significant light pollution to obstruct your view of Venus. Use that sliver of a moon to spot Venus shining brightly.
Venus will also have a close approach with Jupiter on January 22nd and November 24th. Both of those nights offer a great opportunity to admire both planets. On January 22nd, the moon will be almost full (but won’t interfere with viewing both of these planets), whereas it’s a new moon on November 24th and will be an excellent night for planet-gazing.
Similarly, Venus has a close approach with Saturn twice in 2019: January 18th and December 11th. On both nights, the planetary duo will be visible in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours. With a telescope, you should get a great view of Saturn’s rings.
When & How to See Mars in 2019
Photo credit: Manu Méndez via Flickr
Mars is in the spotlight a lot lately, from news headlines to TV shows set on the red planet. It’s easy to spot Mars when it’s in the sky, because of its distinctive color… but don’t let that lull you into complacency about seeing one of our nearest planetary neighbors and possible future home to humans!
Mars will have a close approach with the moon five times in 2019: January 12th, April 9th, May 7th, June 5, and December 22nd. On these nights, the moon will mostly be a crescent moon (except January 12th, when it will be 37% illuminated), making it a great guide to finding Mars as they pass between 1°34′ and 4°58′ of one another. After its close approach to the earth in July 2018, Mars has been steadily moving further away from us (part of the normal elliptical movement of the earth and Mars) so it won’t appear as big or bright as it did last year, but it’s still an impressive sight.
When & How to See Jupiter in 2019
Photo credit: cafuego via Flickr
Jupiter is always fun to spot in the night sky – even without binoculars or a telescope, the gently twinkling Jupiter seems to hint at its lunar-friendly nature. In fact, with even the most basic telescopes, you can spot the four Galilean moons on a clear night!
Jupiter will have 13 close approaches with the Moon in 2019: January 3rd, January 30th, February 27th, March 26th, April 23rd, May 20th, June 16th, July 13th, August 9th, September 9th, October 3rd, October 31st, and November 28th. On each of these nights, you can use the moon as your guide to finding Jupiter – usually within 0°34′ and 3°04′ of one another. The moon will be at varying states of brightness throughout the year during these close encounters, but the best nights to reduce moon-light pollution will be January 3rd, October 31st, and November 28th when the moon is 14% illuminated (or less!). On January 3rd, you can also use a telescope to view the moon and Jupiter in the same view as they will be exceptionally close together.
As previously mentioned, Venus and Jupiter have two close approaches in 2019: on January 22nd and November 24th. Both of those nights offer a great opportunity to admire both planets. On January 22nd, the moon will be almost full (but won’t interfere with viewing both of these planets), whereas it’s a new moon on November 24th and will be an excellent night for planet-gazing.
When & How to See Saturn in 2019
Photo credit: Manuel Escuder via Flickr
Jupiter may be the biggest, but Saturn has the ‘wow’ factor: those picturesque rings! If you’ve never seen Saturn, make a 2019 stargazing resolution to do so – and you’ll be wowed too.
Saturn has 12 close approaches with the moon in 2019: February 1st, March 1st, March 28th, April 25th, May 22nd, June 18th, July 16th, August 12th, September 8th, October 5th, November 2nd, and November 29th. Each of these is a good opportunity to use the moon to find Saturn in the night sky. Early and late in the year are the best nights for viewing Saturn, as on February 1st, March 1st, and November 29th, the moon will be a crescent moon illuminated 19% or less. Additionally, the moon and Saturn pass closely to one another each time they meet – within 0°02′ to 0°55′ depending on the night. Unfortunately, the moon will be so bright in the middle of 2019 that it will make it difficult to see Saturn at all.
As previously mentioned, Venus has two close approaches with Saturn in 2019: January 18th and December 11th. On both nights, the planetary duo will be visible in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours. With a telescope, you should get a great view of Saturn’s rings.
When & How to See Neptune in 2019
Neptune is one of two planets we cannot see without binoculars or a telescope. Don’t forget that we made some equipment suggestions at the top of this post if you need to make an investment this year.
If you want to see Neptune in 2019, you have one good shot to planet-jump and find it: on April 9th, Venus and Neptune will have a close approach in the pre-dawn hours. Venus will pass within 0°18′ of Neptune, making it a perfect opportunity to spot Neptune through a telescope (which you’ll need to see it). Depending on your location on the globe, this pair may be viewed in the earlier morning hours.
There are no close approaches between the moon and Neptune in 2019, so April 9th is your one chance!
When & How to See Uranus in 2019
Photo credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr
Much maligned for its name, Uranus is another planet we can’t see in the night sky without visual aides. Whether you have binoculars or a telescope, consider setting it up in 2019 to spot this vastly underrated gas giant as it moves across the sky.
There are two good nights to potentially see Uranus in 2019.
- On February 12th, Mars and Uranus will have a close approach passing within 0°58′ of each other in the western sky. While you won’t be able to view them in the same telescope view, you can use Mars to planet-hop to Uranus.
- On May 18th, Venus and Uranus will have a close approach passing within 1°09′ of each other. The best chance to view this pair will be in the pre-dawn hours.
There are no close approaches between Uranus and the moon in 2019, so these two dates are your best chances; the Mars and Uranus close approach offers the best opportunity by far!
When & How to See Pluto in 2019
Photo credit: NASA Goddard via Flickr
Pluto may be considered a dwarf planet officially (yes, we’re still salty about that), but we still love it and think you should try and see it if you can (as well as some other dwarf planets outlined in Part III of this 2019 Night Sky series).
Pluto has 9 close approaches with the moon in 2019: March 29th, April 25th, May 22nd, June 19th, July 16th, August 12th, September 8th, October 6th, and November 2nd. Similar to other planets mentioned, the best time of year to see Pluto will be in the beginning and the end of 2019: the March 29th and November 2nd dates are ideal because the moon and Pluto will be a bit further apart and the moon will be less bright than during the middle of the year. Head out on those two nights for your best chances to see Pluto – if you have a telescope you should be able to see it at least once!
A better chance to see Pluto in 2019 might come from two conjunctions with Venus. Venus and Pluto will have their close approaches on February 23rd and December 13th. Both times, Venus and Pluto will pass within 1°08′ to 1°24′ of each other, but they’ll appear low in the sky (pre-dawn in February, post-sunset in December). If you have a good telescope and a clear view of the horizon, you might try spotting our favorite dwarf planet on one of these days.
Now you’re ready to see all of our celestial neighbors in 2019.
Don’t forget that you can add our night sky events calendar to your favorite calendar app to get reminders when each of these events is approaching. You can also check out Part I and Part III of this series. There you’ll see all of the other night sky events happening this year.
Have questions? Email/contact us!
Featured photo credit: Luis Calçada via Flickr