For the next week, if you wake up early in the morning, you’ll be able to view six of the seven planets that share our Solar System lined up along the ecliptic, the Sun’s path through the sky. The seventh, Saturn, is visible in the evening.
This type of arrangement in the sky is called a conjunction. While it’s not unusual to see two or three planets in the sky at the same time, this many planets at once is much more rare.
Earlier this month, several planets emerged from hiding to greet the rising Sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are all currently visible to the naked eye during the predawn hours. Look for them low in the eastern sky. If you step out in the evening, as well, you can also see Saturn sitting to the southeast of the Moon. Uranus and Neptune can be also seen with binoculars or a small telescope, allowing you to see all seven of the other planets that share our Solar System in a single day!
To see this amazing light show, look for the brightest star in the sky at about 5 a.m. This will be the planet Venus. No other bright stars should be out around this time, so the second brightest object you see will be Jupiter. It will sit about halfway between Venus and the horizon. Two smaller specks nearby will be Mars and Mercury; Mars will sit close to Jupiter, and Mercury above it.
To find Uranus, pull our your binoculars or telescope and look for it slightly to the right of Venus. Neptune will be located farther away, in the constellation Aquarius. Just find the constellation on a sky map.
Over time, the planets’ positions will change slightly, creating an almost choreographed dance in the sky. Don’t miss it!
Photograph courtesy of the European Southern Observatory.