These 5 planets will form a rare alignment this weekend
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible to the naked eye throughout June.
Why it matters: This is the first time the five planets will be visible by the naked eye since December 2004 — a somewhat rare occurrence that won't happen again for 18 years, per Sky & Telescope, a monthly magazine published by the American Astronomical Society.
The big picture: Beginning on Friday, the five planets will appear on the eastern horizon before sunrise, Sky & Telescope explained. They will be aligned based on proximity to the sun with Mercury (the closest of the planets to the sun) appearing lowest and Saturn being highest.
- “The planets will not all be in a straight line in space; they’ll just appear that way in our sky,” Rick Fienberg, senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope, told Axios.
How to watch: People in the Northern Hemisphere can head outside about 30 minutes before sunrise to see the planets on the eastern and southeastern horizons, NBC News reports. An unobstructed view will be required for the planets to be properly seen.
- People in the Southern Hemisphere can see the planets before sunrise, too, but stargazers will need an unobstructed view of the eastern and northeastern horizons.
What you'll see: "Venus and Jupiter will be very bright — brighter than any nighttime star. Mercury, Mars, and Saturn will be considerably fainter but should still be noticeable to the unaided eye," Fienberg told Axios.
- Mercury will become more visible later in the month, Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope's Observing editor, told NPR.
- On June 24, viewers can see the waning crescent moon between Venus and Mars, too.
Yes, but: Hannikainen told NPR that the alignment isn't "incredibly rare" as it happened 18 years ago and will happen again in 2040.
- "But it's rare enough that if we get the opportunity to step outside in the morning and check it out, it's worth it," Hannikainen said.
What's next: Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus will appear more spread out across the sky over the next few months, NASA said.