No special equipment is necessary to observe planets in the night sky. However, an observer can enhance his experience using a sky map and a beginner telescope or binoculars. An easy-to-use planisphere helps a gazer identify heavenly bodies that are above the horizon at any time of the day or night and in any season.
A gazer who knows where to look can easily pinpoint the five brightest planets with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The planets can be seen for most of the year, except for short intervals when they are too close to the sun to observe. However, not all the planets are usually visible at the same time. It's possible to tell planets from stars because they shift their position against stars in the background, and their brightness changes at predictable intervals over a period of time. While stars appear to twinkle, which is a result of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, planets do not. In addition, stars appear tinier than planets because of their immense distance from Earth. Beginner stargazers typically find it easier to start with a pair of binoculars as opposed to an advanced telescope. Telescopes suit experienced sky watchers.