How To See Five Planets In Rare Perfect Alignment This Weekend
Stargazers will be able to view a rare alignment of five planets in the night sky Saturday morning. Mercury, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn will all be visible just before sunrise.
While planets aligning in the starry night sky are not unusual, having five of them perfectly align at the same time is a rarer occurrence. The last time five of Earth's neighbors lined up for a parade was in March, as Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars came together for a midnight spectacle.
The best time to catch the planetary alignment will be before sunrise on June 17th. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of all five planets will need to find a spot away from light pollution and a clear view of the horizon. Mercury will be the last to make the lineup about an hour before sunrise. At that time, viewers will see Mercury close to the horizon, all the way up to Saturn higher up in the sky.
Jupiter and Saturn will be the brightest of the five, making them easier to spot. Mercury will not be as bright, but will still be visible with the naked eye. In order to view Neptune and Uranus, however, star gazers will probably want to have a pair of binoculars or a telescope on hand.
Professor Dan Pollacco from the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick remarked, "Jupiter and Saturn will be bright objects that have a yellowy colour, Mercury often looks pink, and Uranus and Neptune pale white/green."
Pollacco explained that astronomers can predict when planet alignments will occur due to understanding the orbits of planets. He adds that while they may appear close in the sky, they are still indeed separated by millions of miles.
The next time five planets will align in the night sky will be on April 20, 2024. So, anyone willing and able to get up a little early on Saturday morning will want to take advantage of the last parade of this many planets in the night sky this year.