Rare planetary alignment: How to spot the 5 'bright planets' all at once

Star-gazers hoping to catch a rare night-sky view are in luck this month: the planets are – literally – aligning.

See Full Article

Beginning Wednesday morning, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will be perfectly lined up so that stargazers have a chance to view all five planets at once.

The rare phenomenon happens when the planets reach a point in their orbit when they're all visible from Earth at the same time, said Rachel Ward-Maxwell, an Ontario Science Centre researcher-programmer in astronomy and space sciences.

"(The alignment) comes from our perspective and where we are in our orbit around the sun, as well as where those planets are in their orbit," Ward-Maxwell said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca from Toronto.

The alignment doesn't mean the planets are passing directly in front of each other or overlapping, Ward-Maxwell said. Rather, it means that the planets will appear along an arc in the sky.

"It means that we see them as though they are all along a curved line, called the ecliptic," she said.

The phenomenon is expected to last until Feb. 20, at which point Jupiter will drop below the western horizon and only four planets remain visible.

How to get the best view of the phenomenon

For the best view, Ward-Maxwell recommends looking up at the sky between about 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. over the next few weeks.

"If you look towards the southern sky in the early mornings, around 7:00 a.m., that's the time that Mercury appears just above the horizon," she said. "Once Mercury rises, you'll be able to see the five planets in the sky at once."

And because Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter are "bright planets," or planets visible to the naked eye, no telescopes are necessary, Ward-Maxwell said.

To locate the planets, York University Astrophysics and Astronomy Professor Paul Delaney recommends first scanning for Venus, the brightest of the five planets.

"Venus is by far the brightest object in the sky apart from the moon and sun," Delaney said. "So you should be able to see a blazingly bright Venus."

From there, Delaney advised looking towards the southwest for the second-brightest planet, Jupiter.

Using Venus and Jupiter as a guide, stargazers should be able to find Saturn and Mars, he said.

"If you sort of join Venus and Jupiter with a gentle arc, you find … two other bright objects along that arc," Delaney said.

To ensure you're looking at a planet and not a star, Delaney said observers should watch whether the light is constant or twinkling.

"Planets tend to shine with a steadier light," he said. "If you look for, say, 60 seconds and conclude it's steady, then it's a planet."

For those who do have a telescope, Ward-Maxwell recommended taking advantage of the chance to get a more detailed look at Jupiter and Saturn.

"If you do have one, get a glimpse of the moons of Jupiter or rings of Saturn," she encouraged.

Both Ward-Maxwell and Delaney said it's been a decade since the last time all five bright planets were visible at once.

According to Ward-Maxwell, they're expected to line up again later in August, but the phenomenon will be much shorter at that time.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • 11 endangered wild elephants rescued from mud in Cambodia

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Eleven endangered wild elephants were rescued in Cambodia on Saturday, four days after getting stuck in a 3-meter-deep mud hole, officials said. The animals were rescued in northeastern Mondulkiri province, home to about 250 wild elephants, said Wildlife Alliance official Bothmroath Lebun. Source
  • How lasers, environmentalists and Google combine to reduce methane emissions

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new project has brought together university researchers, an environmental organization and Google to help find and track methane leaks in U.S. cities. Methane, a natural gas, is commonly used as an energy and heating source, but also makes up about 25 per cent of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Source
  • Another reason to flip the off switch for Earth Hour: light pollution

    Tech & Science CTV News
    For the 11th year running, cities worldwide will turn their lights off Saturday to mark Earth Hour in a global call to action on climate change. But the moment of darkness should also serve as a reminder, activists say, of another problem that gets far less attention: light pollution. Source
  • Black hole gets unusual 'kick' out of galaxy core thanks to gravitational waves

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of international researchers got a bit of a shock recently when a supermassive black hole — something that normally anchors the centre of a galaxy — was spotted speeding away from its home. The reason? Gravitational waves, says the research team. Source
  • Bad breath: Study finds array of bacteria when orcas exhale

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- When the mighty orca breaks to the surface and exhales, the whale sprays an array of bacteria and fungi in its his breath, scientists said, some good, and some bad such as salmonella. Source
  • Trump's proposed NASA cuts take aim at Earth science

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Officials at NASA were delighted that U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal allocates $19.1 billion for the agency, down only 0.8 per cent from last year, but the proposal also cuts several programs to study the Earth. Source
  • 'Call of Duty' gamers converge on Toronto for national championship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Many people have a go-to tool at work. For Andrew Ivers, it's a KBAR-32 this weekend. The 19-year-old from Toronto is a professional gamer who hopes to use his virtual assault rifle to help Team GIRG win the Cineplex WorldGaming "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" tournament final Sunday. Source
  • Apple: Software flaws in latest WikiLeaks docs are all fixed

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Apple said purported hacking vulnerabilities disclosed by WikiLeaks this week have all been fixed in recent iPhones and Mac computers. The documents released by the anti-secrecy site Thursday morning pointed to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple devices using techniques that users couldn't disable by resetting their devices. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts prep space station for new parking spot

    Tech & Science CBC News
    ?Spacewalking astronauts prepped the International Space Station on Friday for a new parking spot reserved for commercial crew capsules. The 402-kilometre-high complex already has one docking port in place for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner, which should start carrying up astronauts as early as next year. Source
  • Skin powered by the sun? Prosthetic limbs with better sense of touch being developed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Amputees with prosthetic limbs may soon have much a better sense of touch, temperature and texture, thanks to the energy-saving power of the sun, British researchers said on Thursday. While prosthetics are usually fully powered using batteries, a new prototype from University of Glasgow researchers opens up the possibility for so-called "solar-powered skin," which would include better sense capabilities than current technology. Source