Five planets line up in the night sky. Here’s how to watch the parade

(CNN) Night sky enthusiasts usually see a few planets in transit, but in late March, a spectacular display takes shape when five planets line up below the Moon in what is sometimes called a planetary parade or alignment.

Viewers can get a great view of the alignment, which includes Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus. Tuesday evening, after sunset. According to Cameron Hummels, a computational astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, most of the displays will be visible on Friday and will continue for the next two weeks.

Such alignments appear every few years or so, Hummels said, and are visible to the naked eye even in urban areas with significant light pollution. And it can be found in both northern and southern hemispheres.

This arrangement is visible under the crescent moon. To find the view, Hummels suggested going to a spot with a good view of the western horizon after sunset. When the lines of the colorful sunset are still there And the sky has turned dark blue but not yet black. (Hint: living Farther north Those in the Southern Hemisphere should look slightly southwest (To look northwest, Hummels said.)

The easiest planet to see is Venus, often referred to as the “evening star” because it is the brightest object in the night sky besides the Moon. Uranus appears close to Venus, although it may be difficult to pick out the distant planet unless you’re viewing from a vantage point free of light pollution without binoculars or binoculars.

Below Venus and Uranus, Jupiter and Mercury hover just above the horizon. Mercury can be difficult to capture without special equipment, as the sun’s glare can destroy the planet. But for careful observers, both planets are visible about 20 to 30 minutes after sunset, Hummels said.

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At the top of the planetary procession, Mars sits in direct line from Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and the Moon. The signature is orange so it’s easy to pick out, Hummels added.

The planets all appear in the night sky “like pearls on a necklace,” Hummels said.

Venus and Jupiter appear exceptionally close together in an artist’s rendering.

The entire alignment covers only 70 degrees of the sky. One way to measure degrees in the sky, Hummels said, is to use your thumb or a closed fist. At arm’s length a fist covers about 10 degrees, a thumb covers 1 degree.

What does this mean?

This type of planetary alignment may appear every few years, but to be able to hold all the planets together in a small area of ​​the sky – those events are extremely rare.

One alignment is at last JuneFor example, the first such event since 2004. This event also includes the five planets normally visible to the naked eye – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Hummels said no To give more importance to a planetary alignment.

“It’s like your car’s odometer showing numbers — it’s like 44,444,” he said. “It’s cool and unusual. It doesn’t really mean anything.”

Fascinating celestial phenomena often grace the night sky, he added, when Jupiter and Venus appeared inside. half a degree from each other This month.

On October 14th, sky watchers can expect a “Ring of Fire” eclipse. Also, in April 2024, A Total solar eclipse For many people in the United States, afternoon sunlight can be devastating.

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