You’ve probably seen the ‘evening star’ or the ‘morning star’. This is Venus. But what else is possible regarding the planets or stars in the daytime? I did some research and it might surprise you to know what can be seen in the daytime sky. But seeing them is not easy. There’s a bunch of celestial objects and I cover these along with some tips for viewing stars during the day.
Venus you’ll easily see with the naked eye for a certain part of the year and it’s possible to see Jupiter and Mars with the naked eye at times. You’ll need exceptional conditions to see Sirius and the other bright stars in that you’re not likely to see them other than with a telescope.
So, you can see some planets and a few of the brightest stars in the daytime, if you know when and where to look (and have the right gear).
Don’t hold your breathe for seeing an exploding star (supernova). The last one seen in the daytime sky was over 400 years ago, in 1572. The best candidate for the next one is Betelgeuse. But no one knows when this red supergiant will become a supernova. It could be now or up to a millions years from now. It’ll stand out, however, given it’s expected visible magnitude of −12.40 as a Supernova.2 See my table below — this is half the brightness of our Sun and over twice that of Venus.
Planet, Saturn with telescope during the day
Check out this photo…
Amazing, huh! It just goes to show how there is more to see in the sky than you’d expect in the daytime.
Regarding the planets…
- Venus (more so) but also Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn can be visible in the daytime at certain times. This will vary depending on their location relative to Earth and their orbit around the Sun. The days that provide the best opportunity for viewing these planets with our naked eye is when they’re the closest to Earth in their orbit around the Sun. Other times will make them nearly impossible to view, even with a telescopic device.
- With the naked eye, at certain times of the year, you will easily see Venus, low in the sky — in the hour after sunset or before sunrise.
Can we see stars during day time with our naked eyes?
You can easily see the evening or morning star, which is Venus. It’s not really a star, it’s a planet.
What you can see of stars in the daytime with a telescope, are those of zero, first, and, at a stretch, second magnitude stars if you have a large enough aperture.
If you’re looking to see stars in the daytime with a telescope, Arcturus, Vega, Betelgeuse, Antares, Canopus, Procyon, Altair, and Arcturus are candidates to check out. You’ll find a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in my article on star types that gives their spectral type, surface temperature, and luminosity.
The video that follows shows a bright object and what you could imagine to be a bright star in the daytime. It was thought to be Vega, the brightest star of constellation Lyra and 5th brightest star in the sky, but it’s not likely that you’ll see it with the naked eye during daylight. Though, admittedly on cloudy days, it might be easier to spot stars with clouds blocking some of the sunlight.
One gauge that’s useful for knowing if you’re likely to see such bright stars with the naked eye, is the logarithmic system of brightness, where magnitudes decrease with increasing brightness.
I’ve put together a chart of magnitudes to help.
With the right conditions, stars and planets with an apparent magnitude of −2.5 or above, should be visible with the naked eye when the Sun is below 10º above the horizon.
Venus is about -2.9 to -5, Jupiter -1.7 to -2.9, and Sirius is about -1.42 [Source: MSU].
|Star Name||Constellation||Visible During Daytime?||Magnitude*|
|Sun||–||Yes. SOLAR FILTER important to avoid injury to naked eye and with telescope.||−26.74|
|Venus||–||Yes, possible with naked eye||−4.92|
|Jupiter||–||Yes, possible with naked eye||-2.94|
|Mars||–||Yes, possible with naked eye||-2.94|
|Mercury||–||Yes, borderline with naked eye||-2.48|
|Sirius||Canis Major||Yes, with telescope||-1.44|
|Canopus||Carina||Yes, with telescope||-0.62|
|Saturn||–||Yes, with telescope||-0.55|
|Arcturus||Boötes||Yes, with telescope||-0.05|
|Alpha Centauri||Centaurus||Yes, with telescope||-0.01|
|Vega||Lyra||Yes, with telescope||+0.03|
|Capella||Auriga||Yes, with telescope||+0.08|
|Rigel||Orion||Yes, with telescope||+0.18|
|Procyon||Canis Minor||Yes, with telescope||+0.40|
|Betelgeuse||Orion||Yes, with telescope||+0.45|
|Altair||Aquila||Yes, with telescope||+0.76|
The difficult part is finding these objects in a sea of blue (the scattered light in our atmosphere from sunlight). Knowing the constellation will help, but you’ll need more help in a way of locating them, e.g. using accurate setting circles.
Tips for viewing stars during the day
The difficult part is knowing where to look! The stars are still there during the day. It’s just that the stars and planets are too bright in the sky for us to notice them. They blend into the background of a clear blue sky.
- You can use apps on your phone or software programs like Stellarium (Windows) which will allow you to locate certain constellations and see the stars that are located in the overhead sky on that particular date/time!
A cheap red screw-in eyepiece filter will counter the blueness of the sky (Orion sells a filter set, red, yellow, green and blue, for a good price). Moving upmarket, some recommended ones are long-pass filters that block wavelengths shorter than a particular frequency, for example, RG665, RG720, and RG830, where the number indicates that cutoff wavelength.
Important: when making observations of or near the Sun make sure you have the right solar filter. I wrote about using a telescope filter and why in my article about viewing our brightest star, the Sun, during a daytime solar eclipse.
Conditions that affect sighting of stars in the daytime include atmospheric turbulence, haze, cloud cover, and air pollution. Tree cover, city buildings, and the like are others you might encounter. Finding a high spot is a good idea in this case. I cover others in my tips for stargazing in the city.
It’s possible to see Sirius, Arcturus, and Vega with a telescope when there is low atmospheric turbulence and when they are above the horizon, using a filter. Betelgeuse and Rigel are two others seen with a telescope by backyard stargazers.
Can you see stars in the daytime from the bottom of a deep well?
This legend derives from a legend about Thuban, which was, at one time, the pole star. As the legend goes, this star could be seen from a pitch black cavern within the Great Pyramid of Cheops. The concept was tested in a dark shaft during the day with the precise passing overhead of the bright star, Vega, by a professor and his students of University of Ohio. They found, they saw nothing as “the brightness of the sky was too overwhelming” 1 to see Vega.
You may know of the legend that stars can be seen during the daytime with the naked eye from the bottom of a deep dark shaft.
Summing it up
Planets can be easier to spot than stars! This is because they are closer to Earth.
Stars that are possible to see during the day but with a telescope include Sirius, Canopus, Vega, Procyon, Altair, and Arcturus.
- Dickinson NightWatch
- Dolan, Michelle M.; Mathews, Grant J.; Lam, Doan Duc; Lan, Nguyen Quynh; Herczeg, Gregory J.; Dearborn, David S. P. (2017). “Evolutionary Tracks for Betelgeuse“. The Astrophysical Journal. 819 (1): 7.
- Mallama, A.; Hilton, J.L. (2018). “Computing Apparent Planetary Magnitudes for The Astronomical Almanac”. Astronomy and Computing. 25: 10–24.