CHICAGO – Stargazers are in for a celestial treat in the form of a five planet “parade”.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all visible at the same time in the early morning sky this week…. and get this, you can see them with the naked eye.
WGN News Now spoke to Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing at the Adler Planetarium, about this rare and exciting occurrence. “The last time we had all five naked eye visible planets in the sky at the same time was two years ago.” said Nichols. “What’s a little more rare about this one is that they’re in sequential order at the same time. So, you will see Mercury closest to the horizon, and then Venus a little higher up, and then Mars, then Jupiter, then Saturn. The last time that happened was in 2004, and the next time that will happen is in 2040.”
The best time to view the planet parade is now, mid-June through the end of June.”You’ll want to go out about 45 minutes prior to your local sunrise time and you want to face to the south and then to the east.” Nichols said. “Mercury is going to be lowest, really low to the horizon. Saturn will be a third of the way up in the sky to the south. You’ll need a wide view that will give you the entire stretch.”
So how do you know when you’ve actually spotted a planet? Both appear as pinpoints of light, but according to Adler experts, stars twinkle, and planets don’t. So, keep that in mind when you’re looking at the sky.
The best day to see the planet parade is Friday June 24th when the moon will also join the mix.”What you’ve got is Mercury, then Venus, then the crescent Moon, then Mars, then Jupiter, then Saturn. And they’re fairly evenly spaced out. So that’s just a cool view.” said Nichols. “It just looks really cool to see them all in a nice little line and to see that nice crescent moon. That will be really pretty.”
Nichols suggested you be sure to get a clear view of the sky down to the eastern horizon if you plan on checking out the planet parade, and to wait until the weather clears. “You need a clear sky to see this so if there’s any clouds that might affect your view.” she said. “No equipment is needed…but you might want a pair of binoculars just to have a better chance of spotting Mercury just because it’s so low.”
Now if waking up before sunrise just isn’t your thing, don’t worry, Nichols said all five planets will be aligned at the same time for a week in December 2022, and it will happen after sunset.
After seeing Jupiter with the naked eye, you may want to take a look at its clouds as part of the Adler Zooniverse. NASA and Zooniverse recently launched the Jovian Vortex Hunters project where “citizen scientist” help real scientists identify clouds on Jupiter by looking at images taken by the Juno spacecraft. You don’t need any special training, you just need to complete a quick online tutorial on how to identify different types of clouds, plus have a computer or smartphone with internet access so you can view the images.
You can see more of Nichols interview about the planet parade in the video above.