5 Planets Have Aligned and Are Now Visible!

five planets align
Museum Victoria/Stellarium

Starting on January 20th, 5 planets will be visible to the naked eye for the first time in 10 years. They will stay visible in the pre-dawn hours up until February 20th, 2016.  You will be able to see some planets earlier though, like Jupiter; which rises in the evening.  After midnight, Mars will rise, followed by Saturn, Venus and Mercury.  If you’re having trouble figuring out if what you see is a star or a planet then do this: close one eye, stretch out your arm and slowly pass your thumb over a bright dot in the sky.  If the dot slowly dims when your thumb passes over it, it’s a planet. If it quickly blinks out, it’s a distant star.  This rare display is made possible by the uncommon alignment of all five planets along what is called the “ecliptic” plane of their orbits according to Jim Green, the planetary science division director at NASA.


Credit: Starry

The five planets will be lined up diagonally from left to right; Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter.  These planets will be easy to see because of the sunlight that is reflected off the planets disks.

“It’s not super often you get to see them all at the same time in the sky, it’s like seeing all of your friends at once,” said Jackie Faherty, an astronomer from the American Museum of Natural History. “There they are, the other rocks or balls of gas that are running around the sun.”

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