Look Up: Witness A Rare Alignment Of All The Planets In The Night Sky

During the whole month of June, the Earth's skies will host a heavenly homecoming. From June 17 to June 27, skywatchers will have the rare opportunity to observe all the main planets in our solar system clustered together, along with the moon.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the five planets in this unusual alignment that can be seen with the naked eye. Each is visible even in the light-polluted city sky, with Venus being the brightest and Mercury being the dimmest. Our nearest planets will seem to be distributed throughout the sky in proportion to their distance from the sun.

These close encounters are referred to by astronomers as conjunctions. It is not uncommon for two or three planets to cluster together, but the last time we saw a conjunction of the five brightest planets was in December 2004.

Illustration of the horizon with locations of Mercury, Venus, Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn, and the moon on June 17, 2022.ILLUSTRATION BY ANDREW FAZEKAS

The more distant ice giants Uranus and Neptune will also cluster in the same region, although they will be more difficult to identify and need the use of binoculars. Scan the sky between Venus and Mars to locate the greenish Uranus, and between Jupiter and Saturn to locate the blue Neptune.

The vast majority of the world's population will be able to see this planetary alignment, although some will be better positioned than others. Mercury, the planet nearest to the sun, will be near the horizon in the northern latitudes, above cities such as New York and London, and may be obscured by the brightness of dawn. In these places, the other planets will also be close to the eastern horizon, making it difficult to view all of them.

Illustration of the horizon with locations of Mercury, Venus, Uranus, the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn on June 24, 2022.ILLUSTRATION BY ANDREW FAZEKAS

Mercury will appear higher in the sky as the month goes on, making it easier to identify. Observers even farther north, such as those in Scandinavia and northern Alaska, where the sun never sets at this time of year, will not be able to see the planets.

The planets will rise higher in the predawn sky in the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere, where the finest views will be. However, regardless of location, the best advice is to locate an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon one to thirty minutes before local dawn.

Due to the near proximity of the planets, the view will be very stunning. And if you miss this show, you will not have another opportunity until 2040.

Reference(s): EarthSky

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