Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .


Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















SKY NIGHTLY
How and When to See Five Planets at Once
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 21, 2016


Here's the view 45 minutes before sunrise as plotted for January 25th. With each passing day, Mercury will appear brighter and climb a little higher. Image courtesy Sky and Telescope diagram.

During the next two weeks, for the first time in more than a decade, you can see all five naked-eye planets - from Mercury to Saturn - together in the predawn sky. This celestial treat is relatively easy to see with just your eyes; no telescope or optical aid is needed.

Technically, all five planets are in the sky before dawn from January 20th to February 20th. However, because Mercury will be most challenging to see, Sky and Telescope senior editor Alan MacRobert advises, "Look during the last few days of January and first week of February to have your best chance for success."

The optimum time to look is about 45 minutes before sunrise; at earlier times Mercury is too low to be seen easily, and afterward the twilight sky rapidly brightens. Find a location with a clear, unobstructed view toward southeast, in the general direction of sunrise, and locate brilliant Venus fairly low above the horizon. Venus is brighter than any other planet or star - you can't miss it.

To spot Mercury, look to the lower left of Venus by about the width of your clenched fist held at arm's length. Mercury will appear as a distinct star in dawn's twilight. Be sure that no trees or buildings are blocking your view. In late January, Mercury gets slightly brighter and climbs higher (closer to Venus) in the predawn sky each successive morning.

To find the other three planets, sweep your gaze in a long arc to upper right from Venus. First comes Saturn, which is much dimmer than Venus. The bright orange-tinted star Antares shines to the lower right of Saturn. Next, as you face due south, comes slightly brighter Mars. Finally, look well past the bright star Spica to spot very bright Jupiter high in the southwest. The entire arc of five planets stretches more than halfway across the sky (an arc of 110 ).

Near the end of January, the waning Moon enters the scene, and its presence can help identify the planets. It is near Jupiter on the mornings of January 27th and 28th, Mars on February 1st, Saturn on February 3rd, Venus on February 5th, and above Mercury on February 6th.

These five planets appear together in the sky two or three times per decade on average, though sometimes one or more of them is too near the Sun to be seen easily. The last instance was before dawn from late December 2004 to early January 2005, when their order in the sky briefly matched their relative order outward from the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The next occurrences, in mid-August 2016 and mid-July 2020, will be challenging to see because Mercury will be very close to the horizon.

A Plane of Planets
As you sweep your gaze from Mercury toward Jupiter, notice that all these planets line along a single arc across the sky. That's no accident. All of the major planets have orbits in roughly the same plane as Earth's orbit. We see our orbit projected as a line - the ecliptic - across the sky. The Sun always lies on the ecliptic - and our Moon is never far from it either. "It's the superhighway of planetary motion among the stars," notes Sky and Telescope senior editor Kelly Beatty.

However, this predawn grouping of planets is not an "alignment" - they are not lined up outward from the Sun. Instead, they are simply positioned in their orbits such that we see them in one portion of the sky.

.


Related Links
Sky and Telescope
Astronomy News from Skynightly.com






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
SKY NIGHTLY
Canyonlands National Park Named International Dark Sky Park
Canyonlands National Park UT (SPX) Sep 01, 2015
The International Dark-Sky Association has granted Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status to Canyonlands National Park, an honor reserved for the darkest of dark skies and the most stunning of starscapes. "It is truly a pleasure to recognize efforts at Canyonlands to expand the reach of dark skies protections across the Colorado Plateau," IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend sa ... read more


SKY NIGHTLY
Audi joins Google Lunar XPrize competition

Lunar mission moves a step closer

Momentum builds for creation of 'moon villages'

Chang'e-3 landing site named "Guang Han Gong"

SKY NIGHTLY
Rover uses Rock Abrasion Tool to grind rocks

Thales Alenia Space to supply reaction control subsystem for ExoMars

Money troubles may delay Europe-Russia Mars mission

Opportunity Welcomes Winter Solstice

SKY NIGHTLY
Zinnias from space

Engineers Mark Completion of Orion's Pressure Vessel

NASA's Scott Kelly unveils first flower grown in space: an orange zinnia

How mold on Space Station flowers is helping get us to Mars

SKY NIGHTLY
China aims for the Moon with new rockets

Chinese Long March 3B to launch Belintersat-1 telco sat for Belarus

China shoots for first landing on far side of the moon

China Plans More Than 20 Space Launches in 2016

SKY NIGHTLY
Water in US astronaut's helmet cuts short Briton's 1st spacewalk

Japanese astronaut learned Russian to link two nations

NASA, Texas Instruments Launch mISSion imaginaTIon

Roscosmos prepares to launch first manned Soyuz MS

SKY NIGHTLY
Building a robust commercial market in low earth orbit

EpicNG satellite installed on Ariane 5 for launch

NASA awards ISS cargo transport contracts

SpaceX will try to land its reusable rocket on an ocean dock

SKY NIGHTLY
Follow A Live Planet Hunt

Lab discovery gives glimpse of conditions found on other planets

Nearby star hosts closest alien planet in the 'habitable zone'

ALMA reveals planetary construction sites

SKY NIGHTLY
NASA's Van Allen Probes Revolutionize View of Radiation Belts

NASA Chooses Avere to Launch its Data onto the AWS Cloud

Single molecule detection of contaminants, explosives or diseases

Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.