A rare alignment will take place later this month, in which all the five planets in our solar system that are visible to the naked eye will glow across the sky together, experts announce.
The five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – will appear as a quintet in the sky at dawn. On Friday, Mercury is expected to rise at around 6:15 a.m. Eastern time. The planet will join Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, which will already be glowing across the morning sky. From late January and into the month of February, the five planets will continue to be visible in the sky.
It is quite rare to have all the five planets that are visible to the naked eye aligned together. Last time they formed a planetary quintet was one decade ago, in 2005.
Tanya Hill, a senior curator at the Melbourne Planetarium in Australia, said that although the five planets are located in different places, there is one thing that they do the same: they all orbit the sun on approximately the same plane. The line created by Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn follows the ecliptic – which is the path the Sun appears to trace through the stars, according to Hill. (note: as seen from orbiting Earth, the Sun seems to move against the background stars)
Of the five planets, Venus is the closest to Earth at approximately twenty-five million miles (forty million kilometres) on average. Sometimes it can even reach as close as twenty-four million miles (thirty-eight km). At its farthest, Venus lies 162 million miles (261 million kilometres) away from Earth.
The furthest from Earth is Saturn (of the five planets). The two planets lie about eight hundred million miles apart (approximately 1.2 billion km) on average.
When they appear together on the dark-sky background, the five planets seem to be a lot closer that they actually are.
Alan Duffy, a research fellow at Swinburne University in Melbourne, said that the five-planet alignment is one of the few amazing things in the night sky that are visible to the naked eye and do not need any special equipment to be seen.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are expected to reunite in the month of August.
Image Source: ibtimes
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