A Prerequisite to Awe

No matter how advanced the technology we have today is, the night sky seems to contain more mysteries as we move closer to unraveling it—like uncovering thousands of matryoshka dolls in reverse.

Perhaps this is what Albert Einstein had in mind. The relentless pursuit of knowledge, when he said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” The real meaning of the universe perhaps is not within the discovery but in the process thereof. Thanks to the investments of governments’ and of our scientists’ brilliant minds, we are a step closer.

Current data states that the number of planets exceeds the number of stars. The heart of our solar system, the sun, is orbited by eight planets. Within the inner recesses are planets composed of rocks: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. It is worth noting that NASA’s latest rover, the Perseverance, had its first brush on Mars’ surface back in February. The outer part is made up of gas-laden giants (Jupiter and Saturn) and ice-filled giants (Uranus and Neptune). Distal to the sun are smaller systems called dwarf planets; the most prominent is Pluto. Thousands of planets are known to be existing beyond our solar system, which are referred to as exoplanets.

The Basic Tools You Need: Curiosity and Patience

To grasp the essence of astronomy to a certain degree, it is best to have a telescope. However, it isn’t always needed. The earliest astronomers only had their eyes, curiosity, and patience as their fundamental equipment. The planets that are visible to the naked eye are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—these are the most radiant celestial bodies that sprawl the night sky and are easily observable. However, Mercury is difficult to identify and requires a trained eye.

Curating the Clutter

When you gaze up at the night sky, there seem to be numerous blips of light that it is often hard to know where to start looking, even harder in a place where there is too much light pollution. In order, then, to differentiate planets from stars, it is worth noting that stars twinkle and planets do not. This has to do with distance: stars are farther than planets. Therefore, as light from distant stars reaches our planet, it is subject to distortion because of the layers of our atmosphere. Since planets are closer, the light they emit isn’t affected much.


Mercury is best visualized in the western part of the sky an hour after the sun sets. In the morning, it appears in the east rising a few hours before the sun and appears bright yellow. A telescope might be a good investment to see this beauty.


Venus is constantly radiant and shines with a gleaming light. It is normally visible during mornings in the eastern part of the skies during January and at the western part during dusk from May to December.


Mars takes pride in its yellow-orange hue, gracing the evening skies from January to August and fill the morning backdrops of November to December. It is worth noting that this red planet is highly visible during the start of the year.


This planet is known for its prominent silver brilliance. It is best seen on January evenings and February to August mornings. It is worth noting that this planet will be brightest in 2021.


Saturn is the humblest of the planets, emitting moderate rays of brightness. Its well-known wings, however, are only visible with a telescope. January evenings and February-August mornings, and August to December mornings are the best times to see this planet.


For people with 20/20 vision, then Uranus might be an easy find, provided that the skies are free from light obstruction. However, to really appreciate the details of the planet, one is required to make investments in a good pair of binoculars or a telescope.


Neptune is quite difficult to spot, even with the use of amateur astronomy equipment. With a certain skill, one can spot this planet as a bluish-appearing star. Neptune pervades the skies from evenings of January to February, mornings of March to September, and evenings of September to December.