Five planets move in a rare alignment, which will be visible from Earth this week. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – in that order – line up for the first time since December 2004. On Friday, June 24, this phenomenon will be most visible to stargazers.
While it is common to see the conjunction of three planets close together, seeing five of them is rare, according to Sky and telescope. The planets line up in their natural order away from the sun, which is also wonderful, says the scientific journal of the American Astronomical Society.
The five planets known as the “naked eye” were visible beginning June 3 and 4, and the formation could be seen using binoculars – but only for half an hour, before Mercury was lost in the glare of the sun.
But on June 24, viewing will be optimal. Even if the distance between Mercury and Saturn increased, Mercury would be easier to spot, so it’s gradually becoming easier to see all five planets, Sky & Telescope’s Observing Editor Diana Hanekainen told CBS News via email.
Henekainen said the sky on the morning of the 24th would “present a wonderful spectacle” because the waning crescent would also join the procession between Venus and Mars.
The planets should be visible in the days before that. Sky & Telescope says the best time to see the line on June 24 is 45 minutes before sunrise. It should be visible on the eastern horizon.
Four of the planets with the naked eye have been lined up in the past few months, According to NASA. But over the next few months, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus will spread out. By September, Venus and Saturn will no longer be visible to most observers.
Another astronomical phenomenon will appear in June: the globular star cluster M13, a tightly packed globular cluster of stars. NASA says M13, also known as Hercules Cluster, contains thousands of stars, which are believed to be around 12 billion years old – roughly the same age as the universe.