This weekend, you have the last chance to see all five naked eye planets in the night sky up until 2041.
You can see Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars closest to the horizon if you get up before sunrise.
It was possible to see all the naked-eye planets within 91o earlier this month. It has been increasing in length ever since. On Friday, June 24, 2022, it will be visible at a wider 107o.
Is it better or worse? No, but it does make it easier to find Mercury. Mercury is now relatively high up in the sky, rising an entire hour earlier than the Sun.
A waning 19%-lit crescent Moon will be visible between Venus and Mars as an added bonus. Although it promises to be beautiful, you might need to use binoculars in order to spot Mercury.
The five naked-eye solar planets will be placed in the Sun’s natural order. Mercury (the darkest) and Venus, the brightest (the brightest), will be first. They are the two inner planets which orbit the Sun much closer than us on Earth. Next will come Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
These alignments can occasionally occur due to the speed at which the planets move around the Solar System. Saturn’s orbit takes 29 years, Mercury’s orbit takes 88 days and Earth’s takes one year. It is rare to find a cluster of planets at one spot in Earth’s nightsky.
The planets aren’t actually aligned. This is a line of sight phenomenon, an optical illusion. The distance between the planets and Earth is many millions of miles.
According to Sky & Telescope magazine, the last time that the five naked-eye planets were arranged across the horizon in a particular order was December 2004. However, this year the gap between Mercury & Saturn is much smaller.
It will not happen again until 2041. However, it will occur slightly earlier on September 8, 2040 when an extremely rare “golden conjunction” occurs. This is a rare event that sees Mars, Mercury and Venus in the same small 10o area of the night sky just after sunset in west.
I wish you clear skies, and big eyes.