On a clear night, away from light pollution, there’s always plenty to enjoy in the night sky.
This week, including tonight, a clear view of the western portion of the sky will offer a chance to marvel at what’s known as a “planetary parade.”
This is when a number of planets align in the night sky, in this case, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars. Add a brightly lit moon and you can enjoy the rare sight of six significant celestial bodies lining up together.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter where on Earth you are, as all of the planets will be visible through clear skies around the world.
While Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and the moon can be easily spotted with the naked eye, a pair of binoculars or telescope is recommended for a clear view of Mercury and Uranus.
It should be noted, however, that the spectacle will be viewable only for about half an hour after sunset, so the opportunity to spot the parade will be short. Also, keep in mind that the planets will be close to the horizon, so try to find a spot away from trees, mountains, and anything else that might obscure your view. For the best view of the night sky, head to a dark location as far away from light pollution as you can get.
You can use one of these excellent astronomy apps to help you pinpoint the precise location of the planets.
If you miss the planetary parade tonight, or if cloud cover prevents a clear view, take another look on Tuesday night, just after sunset.
This week’s unusual astronomical event follows another rare happening in space that took place just a couple of days ago when a large asteroid hurtled between Earth and the moon.
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- A ‘planetary breakup’ is among NASA’s sky-watching treats for June
- Check out this incredibly detailed Mars imagery captured by NASA’s rover
- NASA offers tips on what to look out for in May’s night sky