August 8, 2022
Posted: June 23, 2022 9:48 am
If you have been up early enough over the last few days, you may have noticed a planetary alignment shining in the morning sky just before dawn. Here is what you need to know about this unique celestial event and how you can catch it before it fades away.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have been shining together in a line in the early morning sky, an occurrence that you will not see again for almost two decades if you do not catch it soon. You need to act fast to see this alignment. The planetary parade can be seen just above the eastern horizon each morning through the end of the month.
The planetary quintet last appeared in 2004, pointing to the rarity of this astronomical happening. While you do not need a telescope to see this alignment, what you will need is clear skies.
The five planets are best seen approximately one hour before the sun comes up each morning. Because of the long days of this time of the year, you will need to go outside before 5 am in your area in order to see the brightly shining planets. The planets will appear in a straight line across the eastern horizon. While they will look as if they are close together, they are actually positioned far apart in the galaxy.
Mercury is the most challenging planet to locate because of how close it is to the sun and because of its smaller size. You will find it low on the horizon, meaning that you will need to find an angle without buildings or tall trees obstructing your view. The best way to find Mercury is to first spot Venus, a planet that shines much brighter. Because Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are found higher in the sky, they are also easier to spot with the naked eye.
These planets have been visible over the last week. However, astronomers say that the best time to view them will be the three days following the summer solstice on Tuesday, June 21.
Another fun time to see the alignment will be just before daybreak on Friday, June 24. The crescent moon on this night will appear in line with the planets, adding another layer of celestial magic to the viewing. It is even rarer to see the moon in alignment with these planets.
The five planets will begin to space out by next week. Mercury will not be visible in the morning sky at all by the time July rolls around. However, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will still be visible in the pre-dawn hours as they move farther apart from each other throughout July.
The five planets will not align again with this perfection until August of 2040. However, Mercury will be even harder to find this year because it will be closer to the sun.
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