Five Planets Will Light Up The Night Sky In An Alignment Spectacle Next Week
Heads up! On March 28th, five planets will be putting on a rare celestial show in a parade of planets, with guest appearances by the moon and start cluster Messier 35.
Tuesday March 28th will see Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Uranus, and Venus (plus Earth, if you want to include Terra Firma) lined up for an infrequent cosmic show. They will be aligned almost as an arc across the sky and can be mostly seen with the naked eye, or at the very least, a pair of binoculars. Even Dr. Buzz Aldrin is excited about it, encouraging stargazers to not "forget to look to the sky the end of the month for the planetary alignment which will have at least five planets – plus the moon – all visible in almost an arc shape as seen from Earth."
This planetary event will require a little more effort to track, unlike a similar one in June of last year, which was easier to view with the naked eye. After about 20 minutes from sunset, point your binoculars west, preferably away from strong light pollution. Be sure to scan for Mercury and Jupiter first, since they will hang around for about an hour before fading into the western horizon. Mercury and Uranus might be faint, unless you're blessed to be away from stray light. Venus will be one of the easiest to spot with the naked eye, while Mars will be high in the sky close to the Moon.
If you begin your gaze from higher in the sky, you'll see Mars (brightness rating or magnitude 0.9) and the moon first. Below that would be Uranus (5.8), followed by Venus (-4.0). Almost hugging the horizon will be Mercury (-1.3) and Jupiter (-1.2).
Don't fret if March 28th doesn't pan out to sky gaze. The planetary alignment will be around for a few days before and after the 28th.