A marvelous astronomical event is taking place this weekend. Around sunrise on Saturday, June 17, a planetary parade featuring five planets will decorate the skies. Known by astronomers as planetary alignment, this phenomenon occurs when planets are located on one side of the Sun at the same time. This time, the planets stargazers will get to see are Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Three of the planets—Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn—will be visible to the naked eye. On the other hand, Uranus and Neptune can be tougher to spot, so you may need binoculars or a telescope to see them clearly. According to Star Walk, the alignment will take place within a 93-degree sky sector. This means that the five planets will appear closer together in a small area of the sky.
The best time to see the planetary alignment is about an hour before sunrise. Since summer is coming in a few days in the northern hemisphere, you may need to be out of bed shortly after 4 a.m., according to where you live. For example, on June 17, the Sun rises at 5:11 a.m. in Seattle, 5:24 a.m. in New York, and 5:41 a.m. in Los Angeles. While the phenomenon will be visible for a few more days, Saturday offers the best viewing opportunity before the New Moon arrives on June 18.
To spot the planets when you're out stargazing, a few bits of knowledge can come in handy. “It may be easy to distinguish Jupiter because it will be the brightest celestial object in the morning sky until the Sun rises,” Star Walk explains. “The other planets, however, are much fainter.” Another key point is that the planets, unlike regular stars, don’t twinkle. As with any event, check the weather to see if there will be clouds and avoid bright city lights if possible.
Planetary alignments of this kind are not that common. The last time an event of this magnitude took place was in June 2022, that being the first time in nearly 20 years. Should you miss this opportunity to see five planets align, there's still hope. The next five-planet alignment will take place on April 2024.
Around sunrise on Saturday, June 17, a planetary parade featuring five planets—Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—will decorate the skies.
Three of the planets—Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn—will be visible to the naked eye; however, Uranus and Neptune can be tougher to spot, so you may need binoculars or a telescope to see them clearly.
h/t: [Star Walk]