Don't miss this month's rare planetary alignment (Thinkstock)
Don't miss this month's rare planetary alignment
Lexile

Step outside this week into the chilly predawn to see the planet Mercury peak over the horizon. Then trace an arc across the sky to pick out Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. All five will be visible together for the first time since 2005.
 
The latter four planets have been shining in the early morning since the beginning of the year. So writes Tanya Hill for The Conversation. "It is the appearance of Mercury that makes the family complete," she adds. You can take in the spectacle, depending on your location.
 
Mercury usually hangs close to the horizon. It is the most difficult to see. But it will gradually cross higher in the sky. By early February, it will be easier to spot.
 
Starting January 28, the waning moon will travel along the line of planets. It will start out at Jupiter and rest near Mercury by February 7. Venus and Saturn will dance in particularly close conjunction on February 9.  This is according to Bruce McClure and Deborah Byrd for EarthSky.org.
 
Since each planet orbits at different distances from the Sun and takes different periods of time to complete a year, this kind of alignment in the Earth's sky is rare. The fact that they do stack up in a line is visual proof that the planets do orbit on roughly the same plane, Hill writes.
 
"There are only a few amazing things in the night sky that can be seen without any equipment," Alan Duffy, a research fellow at Swinburne University in Melbourne, tells Anne Johnson of Australian Geographic. The planetary alignment is one of them. It is worth an early rise. Duffy does caution that some people may have to travel farther than their front stoop to get a clear view of the horizon. Trees, buildings and city lights can all block the rare views.
 
So make sure you prepare for the show. And figure out when Mercury will rise near you. To find out, use the United States Naval Observatory's webpage. Hope for clear skies and bundle up. This may be the best view of the five planets aligned for quite a while. According to EarthSky.org, the group will gather again in August. But only those in the Southern Hemisphere will really get to see the next show.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is no telescope needed to see these planets?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (42)
  • ivannac-pay
    1/27/2016 - 11:15 a.m.

    I believe no telescope is needed because these planets are pretty close to us and are big enough for us to see with the naked eye.

  • emilee-war
    1/27/2016 - 12:55 p.m.

    I heard about this at my orthodontist appointment and it made a visit to the dentist not so bad. I love astronomy and things like this make me feel very lucky to live in the beautiful place that I do and see the beautiful things that I see. This special occurrence will definitely be shared with my family and friends and I cant wait to see the planets in my own eyes. I have learned so much about them but have never gotten the chance to prove their existence with my own eyes.

  • hannah6-war
    1/27/2016 - 12:55 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing that you will be able to see five planets at the same time in the night sky using the naked eye. It is very cool how it is rare and hasn't happened in 11 years. I really hope I am able to see all five planets at the same time from my house because it will sure be a moment to remember. I definitely will look up the best time to see all of the planets because this is a moment I will surely want to see. I am very excited to see the planets because space is a very cool thing that we don't know much about so seeing things for myself will be so awesome

  • josen-nar
    1/27/2016 - 04:15 p.m.

    Because they are really cloee and we can see them with our own eyes

  • grantm-2-bar
    1/27/2016 - 05:59 p.m.

    No telescope is needed to see these planets line up because there so big and going to be so close. Also the sun will reflect off them making them easier to see. "There are only a few amazing things in the night sky that can be seen without any equipment," Alan Duffy said. She is talking about these planets lining up in a couple months.this is why you will be able to see these planets line up without a telescope.

  • heatherm-4-bar
    1/27/2016 - 06:04 p.m.

    this act of the five planets being all visible at one time and one night is very rare because each planet orbits the earth at a different time and a different size. it is the first time that it will be happening since 2005 and you sure wouldn't want to miss it because it is so very rare. I chose this article because I have a camera and I love to take pictures of stars and moon and I know that I will be taking pictures

  • carolinev-2-bar
    1/27/2016 - 07:53 p.m.

    A telescope is not needed to see the planets, Mercury Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, starting this week because all of the planets are aligning with Earth. Usually the planets hang very close to the horizon, are covered by the sun (or moon), or a just to far away, so they are difficult to be seen by the naked eye. However starting on January twenty-eighth these five planets are aligning with earth, allowing the things that inhabit Earth to see these planets with their naked eye.
    In paragraph three and four ,the article states,"Mercury usually hangs close to the horizon. It is the most difficult to see. But it will gradually cross higher in the sky.(...) the waning moon will travel along the line of planets. It will start out at Jupiter and rest near Mercury by February 7. Venus and Saturn will dance in particularly close conjunction on February 9" This shows the obstacles that require people to use machinery, such as telescopes, are not going to be a problem in blocking our view of these beautiful planets starting tomorrow.
    I thought that this article was very interesting because all of the facts about why and how the planets are moving away from the objects blocking them from being seen is very interesting.

  • william1108-yyca
    1/27/2016 - 08:51 p.m.

    WOW! They actually get to see some planets! I wish I was there to see it. But it was way to early for me to see. But I wonder how they look like. I will maybe see some planets wander. Maybe one day I will see it or maybe I won't.

  • John0724-YYCA
    1/27/2016 - 08:52 p.m.

    I think that it is going to be very cool to see five planets at once and I would love to see them but I don't have a telescope to see no stars or planets. I think that a lot of people are going to want to see this because it is very cool to see five planets at once. I think that I will try to wait to see the planets without the telescope which I have to wait in a long time. I think that this is going to be amazing to see and I wonder if you could see all the solar system at once but its impossible so forget that.

  • taviana-wes
    1/28/2016 - 09:10 a.m.

    Because the planets are ussally close to the horizon.It will be better to see in febuary 5th.

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