Lunar and Planetary Institute

Solar System

Activity: Planet Viewing

On a dark night children can view the sky and identify planets.  With a small telescope they can see planet features.  Share this special viewing event with children and their families.

The Activity
Invite children and their families to go outside and view the sky on a clear night.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn often can be seen with the naked eye on clear, dark nights. If you know where to look, you also can find Uranus!  Binoculars are needed to see Neptune, and a small telescope is needed to see tiny, distant Pluto.

To find out when and which planets are visible — and where you should look — refer to Sky and Telescope’s sky chart.

  • Which “dots” are planets and which are stars?
  • How are they different?

Unlike stars, planets do not twinkle. They look like bright, un-twinkling stars that move independently of other objects in the sky. 

More information on planetary viewing with small (and large!) telescopes can be found at Sky and Telescope’s planet observing page.



More Activities

Children ages 5 and up and their families

How Long?
30 minutes or more

What’s Needed?

  • Clear, dark viewing sky
  • Binoculars or a telescope
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Flashlight
  • Snacks

Connections to the National Science Standard(s)

Standards D (grades K–4): Understand and communicate that objects in the night sky have describable properties, locations, and movements.

Standards D (grades 5–8): Understand that Earth is the third planet from the Sun in a system that includes the moon, the sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects. These objects orbit the Sun. Most objects in our solar system are in regular and predictable motion.