How to watch 5 planets aligning in the night sky this week


You’ll need a whole handful of fingers to count how many planets you can see in the night sky this week. Just after sunset, skygazers have a chance to see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus forming an arc that extends into the evening sky. And don’t forget to take a look at the moon too!

“The skies are aligning,” said Noah Petro, a scientist with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project. “If you have a telescope, you can dust it off, or binoculars; it’s a great excuse to get out and look out for the night sky. And if you don’t, you can still see them [planets].”

Spectators from all over the world will be able to see the spectacle – clear skies and views of the western sky permitting. The family portrait moment is called the planetary alignment because several planets congregate on one side of the sun at the same time. In this case, the planets form a literal line under the moon.

Jupiter will shine and Mercury will dangle close to the horizon, albeit a bit faint. But you can’t be fashionably late for this rendezvous: Mercury and Jupiter will set on the horizon within about 30 minutes after sunset. If you want to watch the planets appear one by one, Petro says you should go when the sun is close to the horizon.

The best view of the planetary assembly is Tuesday night, but if you miss the scene there is still time to catch the show. The planetary party is happening every night this week. Jupiter might just be harder to see as it dips closer to the horizon for the rest of the week, NASA Ambassador Tony Rice said in an email.

The other days of the week “actually provide better opportunities to see Mercury as it puts another degree between itself and the horizon by mid-April,” Rice said.

With a clear view of the horizon, four of the five planets will be visible to the naked eye. But if you want to see Uranus, you need some equipment. It’s not uncommon for planetary alignments to occur, but it’s “certainly remarkable” when most of the planets are visible to the naked eye, Petro said.

Venus will steal the show with her brightness after Jupiter and Mercury make their grand exit. Uranus will linger near Venus but will be harder to spot. Mars will be highest in the sky, just below the moon.

While it’s a good reason to look up, Rice wrote that the celestial cast isn’t particularly rare. “It happens every time the planets line up on one side of the sun,” he said. “Which, given Mercury’s 88-day orbit and Venus’ 225-day orbit, is about once a year.”

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.


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