How to See All Five Visible Planets At The Same Time

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 - 2:04PM
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 - 2:04PM
The last time that all five visible planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn - appeared in the sky together was over ten years ago, from December 15, 2004- January 15, 2005.

Now, astronomers have predicted that they will appear simultaneously again--from January 20-February 20, 2016. 

Luckily, you don't have to have fancy equipment to see them--in fact, you don't need anything but your eyes, and the will to wake up before dawn. That's because these five planets are "bright planets," meaning that they are planets within our own solar system easily viewed without an optical aide. These planets are easily visible in our sky because their disks reflect sunlight.

So, how can you tell exactly what you're looking at?

Regardless of your location on Earth, you can use the moon to help guide you to this beautiful display. 

On January 28, the moon will be right next to Jupiter. On February 1, it will be alongside Mars, and the next morning, February 2, it'll rest just below the red planet. On February 4, the moon will be near Saturn, and on February 6, it will be alongside Venus. Finally, on February 7, it will come to rest below Mercury. 

Of course, if you're not an early riser, most of these planets will be visible at night, although you wouldn't be guaranteed to see them all at the same time. Jupiter rises first, in the evening, followed by Mars after midnight, and then Saturn, Venus, and Mercury in the early hours of morning. 

But waiting until just before dawn has some added benefits. The line formed by the five planets in the sky closely follows the elliptic, the apparent path of the sun agains the background stars. This path marks the plane of our solar system, and is bordered by the constellations of the zodiac. If you're awake before the first rays of sun begin to drown out the stars, you can see the curved outline of Scorpius between Mars and Saturn. 

And, just in case you miss this beautiful morning display, the five bright planets will be visible in the evening sky this summer from August 13- 19. However, Mercury and Venus will be sitting low in the west at dusk, which means that if you're in a Northern latitude, they might be tough to spot.

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