Rare planetary event to grace night skies in June
(Newser) – Get ready for a planetary sky show not seen since “Hey Ya!” topped the charts and Mark Zuckerberg was launching Facebook out of his college dorm room. Throughout the month of June, those on the US mainland will be able to see, sans telescope, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn lined up in the night sky, though you’ll need to get up pretty early to bear witness. Diana Hannikainen of Sky & Telescope magazine tells NPR that those interested in seeing the outer space alignment will need to head outside about 30 minutes before sunrise, to a spot with an unblocked view of the horizon to the east/southeast.
NBC News notes that the order of the planets corresponds to their distance from the sun: Mercury, which is closest to our burning star, will show up closest to the horizon line, while Saturn, the furthest away, will appear highest in the sky. The outlet notes that while spotting two planets lined up isn’t terribly uncommon, seeing five is—though it’s not “incredibly rare,” Hannikainen tells NPR: The last time this happened was in 2004, and it’ll happen again in 2040.
Mercury will be hard to make out in the early part of this month, but as June continues it should get brighter. June 24 might be the best day to give the alignment a whirl: Not only will Mercury be more visible, but that’s the night when a waning crescent moon will pop up between Venus and Mars. Then, “over the next few months, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus will appear increasingly spread out across the morning sky,” NASA notes. Even though in theory you should able to see the planets with the naked eye in June, Hannikainen tells NPR you should break out a pair of binoculars to have the best chance of seeing all five planets. (Read more planets stories.)