Friday, June 24, 2022

Here’s how to watch the peak of a rare, 5-planet alignment this weekend | News

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A rare, five-planet alignment will peak on June 24, allowing a spectacular viewing of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as they line up in planetary order.

The event began at the beginning of June and has continued to get brighter and easier to see as the month has progressed, according to Diana Hannikainen, observing editor of Sky & Telescope.

A waning crescent moon will be joining the party between Venus and Mars on Friday, adding another celestial object to the lineup. The moon will represent the Earth’s relative position in the alignment, meaning this is where our planet will appear in the planetary order.

This rare phenomenon has not occurred since December 2004, and this year, the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be smaller, according to Sky & Telescope.

How to view the alignment

Stargazers will need to have a clear view of the eastern horizon to spot the incredible phenomenon, Hannikainen said. Humans can view the planetary show with the naked eye, but binoculars are recommended for an optimal viewing experience, she added.

The best time to view the five planets is in the one hour before sunrise, she said. The night before you plan to view the alignment, check when the sun will rise in your area.

Some stargazers are especially excited for the celestial event, including Hannikainen. She flew from her home west of Boston to a beachside town along the Atlantic Ocean to secure an optimal view of the alignment.

“I’ll be out there with my binoculars, looking towards the east and southeast and crossing all my fingers and toes that it is going to be clear,” Hannikainen said.

You don’t have to travel to catch a glimpse of the action because it will be visible to people around the globe.

Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can see the planets from the eastern to southeastern horizon while those in the Southern Hemisphere should look along the eastern to northeastern horizon. The only requirement is a clear sky in the direction of the alignment.

By the next day, the moon will have continued its orbit around the Earth, moving it out of alignment with the planets, she said.

If you miss the five-planet alignment in sequential order, the next one will happen in 2040, according to Sky & Telescope.

  • June 14: Strawberry moon
  • July 13: Buck moon
  • August 11: Sturgeon moon
  • September 10: Harvest moon
  • October 9: Hunter’s moon
  • November 8: Beaver moon
  • December 7: Cold moon

Lunar and solar eclipses

Partial solar eclipses occur when the moon passes in front of the sun but only blocks some of its light. Be sure to wear proper eclipse glasses to safely view solar eclipses, as the sun’s light can be damaging to the eye.

A partial solar eclipse on October 25 will be visible to those in Greenland, Iceland, Europe, northeastern Africa, the Middle East, western Asia, India and western China. Neither of the partial solar eclipses will be visible from North America.

A total lunar eclipse will also be on display for those in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, South America and North America on November 8 between 3:01 am ET and 8:58 am ET –but the moon will be setting for those in eastern regions of North America.

Meteor showers

  • Southern delta Aquariids: July 29 to 30
  • Alpha Capricornids: July 30 to 31
  • Perseids: August 11 to 12
  • Orionids: October 20 to 21
  • Southern Taurids: November 4 to 5
  • Northern Taurids: November 11 to 12
  • Leonids: November 17 to 18
  • Geminids: December 13 to 14
  • Ursids: December 21 to 22

If you live in an urban area, you may want to drive to a place that isn’t littered with city lights to get the best view.

Find an open area with a wide view of the sky. Make sure you have a chair or blanket so you can look straight up. And give your eyes about 20 to 30 minutes –without looking at your phone or other electronics –to adjust to the darkness so the meteors will be easier to spot.

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