Photographers around the world may want to point their lenses to the western night sky tonight to capture a rare image of five planets lined up.
Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars will all hang out together with the Moon on Tuesday night giving shooters the chance to capture six celestial bodies in one frame.
The five planets will be visible from anywhere on Earth, all that’s required is a clear view of the sky with no clouds. The planets will stretch from the horizon line to roughly halfway up the night sky.
However to catch a glimpse of this event, sky gazers will have to be quick because Mercury and Jupiter will quickly disappear below the horizon just half an hour after sunset.
In fact, Rick Feinberg, senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope, says that “Unless you have a clear sky and a nearly flat western horizon free of obstructions such as trees or buildings, you won’t see Jupiter and Mercury.”
Right now you can see Mars, Uranus, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury at dusk. A great time to visualize our cosmic family and get a feel for how these things sit along the ecliptic plane. This is a composite image from a briefly period last year when it was visible before dawn. pic.twitter.com/wUpW485922
— Andrew McCarthy (@AJamesMcCarthy) March 27, 2023
Jupiter, Venus, and Mars will be the easiest to spot as they will be shining brightest; none more so than Venus which is one of the brightest objects in the sky currently. Mars will be close to the Moon with its trademark reddish glow. Mercury and Uranus will be the most difficult to spot as they will be dimmer. It is unusual to see Uranus in the night sky at all so look out for its green glow just above Venus.
There was a rare five planetary alignment last June consisting of Mercury, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. A lineup that had not been seen since 2004.
NASA astronomer Bill Cooke tells the AP that this kind of alignment happens when the planets’ orbits line them up on one side of the sun from Earth’s perspective.
“That’s the beauty of these planetary alignments. It doesn’t take much,” Cooke adds.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.