5 planets to align in sky for first time in 10 years

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A depiction of how the five aligned planets would be visible to the naked eye from January 20 until February 20 2016Museum Victoria/Stellarium
If you’re a morning person, head outside over the next month for a planetary treat. Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will all be lined up in the morning sky, stretching from east to west.

All five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – will appear together in the morning sky from about January 20 to February 20, 2016. That hasn’t happened since 2005!

All five planets will can be seen just before dawn at 6.50am ET on Wednesday, January 20.Hold your arm up straight from the moon to the horizon and the five planets should fall along that line.

If you look up, from left to right in a diagonal line you will see Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter.The stars Antares and Spica will also be visible in the same patch of sky. Uranus and Neptune are the only two planets that won’t be on show.

From around the world, Jupiter will be the first planet to appear in the evening to the east.Next will be Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury which rise overnight and early morning.

2016-janaury-25-morning-planets
For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia see the planets similarly positioned, yet see the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. Spica is a star in the constellation Virgo. The green line on the above chart depicts the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets across the sky’s dome.

Mercury will be low in the east-southeastern morning sky, at around eight degrees to the lower left of Venus.If poor weather conditions get in your way, these five planets will be visible each day before dawn through February 20.

‘We expect people from both Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres to see Mercury with relative ease by around January 25,’ wrote EarthSky.org. ‘Mercury will be at its best in the morning sky for several weeks, centered around February 7, 2016.’At this juncture, Mercury rises about 80 minutes before the sun at mid-northern latitudes. ‘At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury rises a whopping two hours (120 minutes) before sunrise.’

May you be blessed with clear skies for the upcoming planetary spectacle, with all five bright planets taking stage in the same sky from January 20 to February 20, 2016!

Relative distances of the planets in astronomical units (sun-Earth distance):

AU-distances-planets