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Five planets visible to the naked eye are ready to line up and march across the sky this summer in an unusual orientation adorned by the light of the moon.
Alignments of the five planets visible without a telescope or binoculars occur irregularly only every few years. The last time it happened was in 2020 and before that in 2016 and 2005, Michelle Nichols, director of public observation at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, told Live Science. Skywatchers can already see the parade of planets moving into place, but all five will be visible from late June to early July.
“We don’t always get that opportunity,” Nichols said. “Sometimes there are one or two in the sky; often there is none.”
When do the planets align?
The planets are not actually in a line in space; Alignments are a trick of perspective. The planets orbit the sun on a flat plane. So if they happen to pass close to each other, that’s what they look like Earth‘s perspective of being in line. An observer looking down on them solar system wouldn’t see a straight line at all from above.
Mercury orbits the Sun every 88 Earth days, Venus every 225 days, Mars every 687 days, Jupiter every 12 years, and Saturn every 29 years. Given these different timelines, the orbits of the planets bring them close to each other at irregular intervals.
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As seen in the northern hemisphere, Venus, Saturn, and Mars began clustering in late March 2022, but whether they are far enough above the horizon to be seen before sunrise depends on your location. Observers further east and south in North America have early morning visibility, while those in the Pacific Northwest will not see the cluster rising until about an hour before sunrise.
Around April 17, Jupiter will join the series of Venus, Mars and Saturn. The moon will move into this planetary conga line on April 23, appearing to the right and above Saturn before disappearing from view on April 29 when it appears too close to the Sun to be seen. The Moon will rejoin planetary alignment beginning May 21st.
Finally, around mid-June, Mercury will snap alongside the other four planets, Nichols said, with Earth’s Moon joining the party on June 17. Coincidentally, the planetary line will be in order of the planets’ distance from the sun.
“Mercury will be furthest east and lower, Venus will be very bright and above and above to the right, Mars will be orange to the southeast, Jupiter will be upper right and then Saturn will be upper right of Jupiter, slightly to the south,” said Nicholas.
This is how you see the planetary alignment
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The best day to see the alignment depends on local conditions. From a location with a flat horizon to the east, Mercury will be visible as early as June 10, Nichols said, but viewers with limited vision might have better luck waiting until late June for a glimpse. The alignment will be visible until early July when Mercury dips below the horizon again.
Because of its short orbit, “Mercury doesn’t spend a lot of time in one part of the sky,” Nichols said.
For people in North America, the best way to see alignment is to go outside and look south and east about 45 minutes before sunrise local time in late June, Nichols said. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible to the naked eye. Uranus and Neptune will also be in the sky, although much more difficult to see. Uranus will likely be visible with binoculars in areas with little light pollution, Nichols said, but to see Neptune requires the use of a 6-inch telescope.
To distinguish the planets from the stars that surround them, look for steady light. Light from planets is less affected by Earth’s atmosphere than light from stars, Nichols said.
“The general rule of thumb is: stars twinkle, planets don’t,” she said.
There will also be some obvious landmarks, Nichols said. For example, on June 27, Mercury will be below and to the right of the thin crescent moon, which may make Mercury easier to find.
“You have to set the alarm for it,” Nichols said, “but it’s just fun to see planets in the sky and learn what they look like.”
Originally published on Live Science.
The planets are prepping for an epic alignment. Here’s how to see it shape up. Source link The planets are prepping for an epic alignment. Here’s how to see it shape up.