Don't miss this month's rare planetary alignment (Thinkstock)
Don't miss this month's rare planetary alignment
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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 and by early February it will be easier to spot.
 
Starting January 28, the waning moon will travel along the line of planets, starting out at Jupiter and resting near Mercury by February 7. Venus and Saturn will dance in particularly close conjunction on February 9, report 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, and worth an early rise. Duffy does caution that some people may have to travel farther than their front stoop to get an unobstructed 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 using 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, though the group will gather again in August, 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 (31)
  • calvinh-4-bar
    1/28/2016 - 06:25 p.m.

    No telescope is needed to see the planets because the planets will be close enough to the horizon that there won't be a need to use a telescope.
    I think it will be very interesting to see the planets without a telescope and I will definitely be looking out for the planets.

  • yuaw-3-bar
    1/28/2016 - 08:52 p.m.

    No telescope is needed to see these planets because, like it says on paragraph one, all five of the planets, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury will be visible together for the first time. Also, on paragraph two, Tanya Hill for The Conversation says, you can take in the spectacle depending on your location.

    I thought this was very interesting because my friend and I were just talking about this at school and finding out more about this made me want to see it more. It would be an amazing experience to see all five planets; Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    1/28/2016 - 09:07 p.m.

    I think this is cool because it has been eleven years since the last time this happened. I would like to see the alignment since I never know when the next time this would happen in the Northern Hemisphere. It would be amazing to see this. These kind of things are rare because the planets travel at different angles and distances.
    Why is no telescope needed to see these planets?
    Answer: No telescope is needed to see the planets because you can see them in the horizon in the morning.

  • sheilah-6-bar
    1/28/2016 - 09:34 p.m.

    No telescope is needed to view these planets because they all are aligned. The article states that, "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." The planets are usually not seen because they are not on the same plane. I find this article interesting because I usually think that most planets far away have to be seen through a telescope.

  • aidanp-1-bar
    1/28/2016 - 11:08 p.m.

    Planets are closer than stars even though stars are much bigger. They are also colored so that makes them easier to see.

  • stonep-6-bar
    1/29/2016 - 12:20 a.m.

    This is a rare sight. The reason we don't need a telescope to see the planets because Mercury is close to the horizon so it will be easer to see later in the day. The reason you can't see them on the same day because they don't travel at the same time.

  • mayaw-6-bar
    1/29/2016 - 12:22 a.m.

    No telescope is needed to see the planets because they are aligned, and in the early morning you can see them in the horizon depending on where you are. In paragraph 3, it states that, "Mercury usually hangs close to the horizon. It is the most difficult to see. But it will gradually cross higher in the sky and by early February it will be easier to spot." This means that Mercury will be aligning with all of the other planets more because it is rising more in the sky. Therefore, no telescope is needed to see these five planets align because in the early morning you can see them in the horizon, and they will align. This article surprised me because I cannot believe we had to wait almost eleven years from 2005 to be able to see all five planets line up again. This article has left me wondering where you must be to see this alignment, somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, I am guessing. I found this article even cooler because today is February 28, 2016, meaning that we could possibly get a glimpse at these five magnificent planets align.

  • genevieveb-6-bar
    1/29/2016 - 12:55 a.m.

    No telescope is needed to see the planets due to the large spectacle of the planetary alignment. Near the end of the article, it claims," The planetary alignment is one of [cosmic wonders which does not require a telescope], and worth an early rise. Duffy does caution that some people may have to travel farther than their front stoop to get an unobstructed view of the horizon" (paragraph 6). Once one has a clear sight of the sky, they do not need a telescope because of the massive size of the alignment. One does not need a telescope to view the planets because of the grandness of the planets aligning in the far-off cosmos.

    This article intrigued me because I love to star-gaze and look up at the night sky, when it is clear enough out.

  • mitchells-ver
    1/29/2016 - 01:56 p.m.

    This is an interesting moment for people who haven't bought a telescope and this strange for it to happen

  • daphner-wil
    1/31/2016 - 03:48 p.m.

    There is no telescope needed because they said that the planets are gonna be visible from earth.For the first time since 2005.It Is going to be visible from land at night. It's gonna be four planets that will be visible because u can see them from the horizon. It is rare to see this happen. It will be visible on different days.

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