“Tonight’s rare celestial event: a guide to observing 5 planets”

Tonight (March 28), we may witness a special astronomical event where Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus, and Mars will grace the night sky. Although they won’t be aligned in a straight line, it will still be a stunning sight to behold, according to NASA scientist Bill Cooke who stated that the “alignment” will be a “very pretty” sight.

What is the way to observe the 5 planets?

Although the five planets and the waxing crescent moon should be visible from most parts of the world, you’ll need an unobstructed view of the horizon to see them.

Rick Feinberg, senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, suggests that locating Venus and Mars should be a straightforward task. Venus, being the brightest planet in the solar system, will be visible high in the sky, while Mars will shine brightly beside the waxing Moon. However, locating Uranus, which will be situated near Venus, may prove more challenging as it will appear faint and only visible when in close proximity.

ienberg advised NPR listeners to wait until after sunset and then use binoculars to look towards the bright part of the sky where the sun has just set, where they should be able to see the brighter Jupiter next to the fainter Mercury.

For optimal viewing of this uncommon astronomical phenomenon, it is recommended to find a location with minimal light pollution and an unobstructed horizon. While most planets can be observed without binoculars, Jupiter and Mercury may require the use of binoculars to be visible.

Can this be considered an uncommon occurrence?

Although tonight’s celestial event is not a common occurrence, it does not qualify as a five-planet alignment since the planets will not be aligned in a perfectly straight line.

The opportunity to witness an alignment of five planets has already elapsed. In June of last year, a genuine alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn occurred, spanning the sky from the eastern horizon to the southern zenith in the sequence of their proximity to the Sun.

According to NPR, the planetary alignment in June was the first one to occur in almost eighteen years, not counting the rare coincidence where they appeared in that specific sequence. The last time this event happened was in December 2004, and it is not anticipated to occur again until 2040.

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