The Planets

To the casual observer, the planets are indistinguishable from bright stars. For the purposes of our unaided eye observation, the stars remain fixed in place relative to one another. Even without magnification, planets can be observed to move among the stars as they move along their orbital paths around the Sun. Movement of the planets closer to the Sun, which orbit the Sun faster than the planets that are farther from the Sun, can be detected from one night to the next. The motions of the planets more distant from the Sun can be detected over the course of weeks or months. I have actually seen Venus’ movement over the span of a few minutes through a telescope during the 2012 transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Even when greatly magnified, stars will never appear as more than a single point of light when observed from Earth. Planets on the other hand, will appear larger with magnification, and a disk can be observed. Features on some of these disks can be observed with sufficient magnification.

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