The planetary alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – which began on January 20 – can still be seen in the sky, especially just before dawn, experts say.
Last time the five planets were visible to the naked eye was a decade ago, in 2005. In the first two weeks of February, when planet Mercury will be higher and more visible than in the previous month, the rare planetary alignment will be at its prime.
Arvind Paranjpye, director of Nehru Planetarium in India, said that currently all the planets are visible in pre-dawn sky, except for Mercury. In the first week of February, Mercury will also become visible, he added.
The five planets will be visible until February 20. However, the morning of February 5 will be the best time to spot the alignment, according to astronomers.
The best time to see the planetary alignment is right before dawn. As soon as the Sun rises, it will become too bright to spot the five planets, experts say.
Of the five planets, Jupiter will be the first to rise, followed by Mars. The Red Planet (Mars) can be easily seen thanks to its reddish colour and brightness; it will be located between Antares (brightest star in the constellation Scorpius) and Spica (brightest star in the constellation Virgo).
Saturn will be the third planet to rise northeast of Antares; Saturn will be shining brighter than the Red Planet. Venus will be located in the south-eastern sky. The planet’s brightness in the night sky will make it easy to see. The fifth planet to rise will be Mercury – it will be quite low in the south-eastern sky.
When viewing the planetary alignment, people should have a south-eastern view, away from any tall buildings or trees that could obstruct their view.
Venus, the brightest of the five planets, will be situated quite low above the horizon. You can spot Mercury to the lower left of Venus. The remaining three planets will be located in the upper right area from Venus. The first one will be Saturn, followed by Mars and finally Jupiter.
Jason Kendall, on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, said that when you slowly pass your thumb over a bright dot in the sky, and it quickly blinks out, then it is a distant star. However, if the dot slowly dims out, then it is a planet.
The five planets will align again in August 2016. After that, the planetary alignment will not appear in the sky until October 2018.
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