Photo: Illustration of the Sun and eight planets (International Astronomical Union)
It is relatively easy to spot five of the planets in the Solar System. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible with the naked eye.
Under ideal conditions Uranus is just barely visible to unaided viewers, but it is best to use binoculars or a telescope. You will definitely need magnification to see the eighth planet, Neptune. Pluto lost its planet status in 2006 and is now considered to be a dwarf planet.
The discovery of hundreds of exoplanets orbiting other stars means our eight planets have plently of company in the Universe. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/solarsystem/sun_and_planets
On 6 December, the Cassini spacecraft sent back the first photos since starting its closest orbits yet to Saturn’s rings.
This penultimate phase of Cassini’s mission, called the Ring-Grazing Orbits, started on 30 November and will send Cassini on 20 week-long trips soaring above Saturn’s northern hemisphere before gliding back down just outside the planet’s main rings.
http://www.space.com/33883-juno-makes-closest-jupiter-flyby.html Juno arrived at Jupiter July 4 after a five-year journey, and this will be the closest approach of the entire mission, with the spacecraft grazing over the tops of Jupiter’s clouds at a distance of just 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) at a speed of 130,000 mph (208,000 km/h).
After a five year journey from Earth, Juno the solar-powered spacecraft squeezed through a narrow band, skimming Jupiter’s surface, avoiding the worst of both its radiation belt and its dangerous dust rings.
The spacecraft will orbit the planet once every 53 days until October 14, when it will shift to a tighter 14-day orbit. And after about 20 months of learning everything it can about Jupiter’s interior and its atmosphere, it will eventually succumb to the harsh environment and plunge into the planet’s crushing centre.
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured new images of Jupiter’s glowing aurora swirling around one of the planet’s poles, as part of a wider observation programme of the gas giant.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to descend into Jupiter on 4 July at 1757 BST, when Mission Juno will commence. The trip to Jupiter is part of a wider quest to understand how the Solar System and life within it formed billions of years ago.