Throughout the month of June, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be aligned in their natural order and will be clearly visible without a telescope for the first time since 2004.
Driving the news: According to Sky & Telescope, “seeing two or three planets close together (in what’s known as a conjunction) is a rather common occurrence, but seeing five is somewhat more rare.”
- The fact that all five planets are arranged in their natural order from the sun makes the spectacle even more astounding, Sky & Telescope reports.
What they’re saying: NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller says the order of the planets happened entirely by chance.
- “It’s just coincidence,” she said, according to The Washington Post.
- “Planets are often getting closer to each other and farther away from each other, but this is just a particularly fun order,” Thaller continued, per The Washington Post.
- Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope, told NPR that people should keep an eye on the sky, saying, “It’s rare enough that if we get the opportunity to step outside in the morning and check it out, it’s worth it.”
How can I see them? The planets will be visible throughout the month of June, for around 30 minutes each day before the sun comes up.
- The best opportunity to see the planets will be June 24, according to The Washington Post.
- “You’ll need an observing site with a low eastern horizon, because Mercury and Venus will be very low in the east-northeast. Mercury never strays far from the bright glow of the sun,” said Dr. Rick Fienberg, former press officer of the American Astronomical Society, per Fox 13 Seattle.
When will these planets be visible again? According to Fox 13, this particular planetary sequence won’t happen again for another 18 years, estimated to return in 2040.
Update: Although the best time to see this planetary alignment was shortly before sunrise on June 24, the planets will remain visible until June 27, Space.com reported.