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

  • Experimental toilet diverts urine to make fertilizer

    Tech & Science CTV News
    This photo shows a special toilet that diverts urine for fertilizer, at the University of Michigan engineering building in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Source
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 to feature smaller case, more screen space: report

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A new report lines up with previous rumors about April's expected addition to Samsung's set of flagship handsets, the Galaxy S8. Ahead of a March announcement and an April launch, two Samsung Galaxy S8 variants are being prepared with an emphasis on case size reduction and screen size maximization. Source
  • Google's Chromebook comes of age

    Tech & Science CTV News
    With new devices and now access to the entirety of the Google Play Store, the Chromebook is about to become a computer that puts a premium on productivity and practicality but without a premium price tag. Source
  • There's no place like home: NASA releases beautiful satellite photos of Earth

    Tech & Science CBC News
    NASA and and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released incredible photos of home taken from a new satellite orbiting Earth called GOES-16. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) are a number of satellites that both agencies have used to monitor meteorological conditions across the globe. Source
  • U of A research shows fracking fluids cause 'significant' harm to fish

    Tech & Science CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Research has found that liquids used to frack oil and gas wells can harm fish. A newly published paper by University of Alberta scientists concludes the water that flows from such wells causes significant damage. Source
  • Google, Facebook say they'll roll out tools to sift fake Canadian news

    Tech & Science CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Two of the world's biggest digital information platforms say they're getting ready to roll out tools in Canada designed to crack down on so-called "fake news." The phenomenon of false or misleading information being widely disseminated online became a major storyline in the U.S. Source
  • How the internet is turning us all into 'mean girls'

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In the moments leading up to last week's presidential inauguration, Barry Bennett, a commentator on PBS's NewsHour, remarked that "division is the new normal." Ironically, that's probably the one thing we can all agree on. No matter your political beliefs, we can all see it: we are divided. Source
  • The internet has fostered a new kind of tribalism, and it's destroying the way we interact

    Tech & Science CBC News
    In the moments leading up to last week's presidential inauguration, Barry Bennett, a commentator on PBS's NewsHour, remarked that "division is the new normal." Ironically, that's probably the one thing we can all agree on. No matter your political beliefs, we can all see it: we are divided. Source
  • Japan's military launches first communications satellite

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Japan's H-2A rocket carrying Defense Ministry's first communications satellite Kirameki-2 goes up goes up after its launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in Minamitane on Tanegashima Island, southern Japan, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP) Source
  • Jet lag can adversely affect Major League Baseball players: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A new study has found the jet lag that goes with a grinding schedule of Major League Baseball games that takes players from coast to coast and back again can take its toll on performance. Source