Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Five planets will align in rare celestial spectacle

Starting Jan. 20, five planets will line up single file in the predawn skies.
Starting Jan. 20, five planets will line up single file in the predawn skies.

Five planets will align in a rare celestial show that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. The planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will line up single file in the predawn sky starting Jan. 20 and will be visible to the naked eye.

The line of planets can be seen around the world until Feb. 20. It is best viewed one to one-and-half-hours before sunrise, reports Accuweather Jan. 19.

If stargazers attempt to view the line of planets just before dawn, they may find that it has not completely risen. After dawn, the line of planets will begin to disappear as its visibility in Earth’s skies will be cancelled out by sunlight.

Venus will be the brightest planet in the sky and can assist viewers in finding the rest of the planets. Mercury, Venus and Saturn will be low over the southeastern horizon (in that order) while Mars and Jupiter will reach across the sky into the southwest. Jupiter, which ends the line, will be the second brightest visible planet. Mars may be hard to see low on the horizon, but its faint red color will differentiate it from surrounding stars.

Viewers will be able to differentiate the planets from stars because starlight twinkles and the light reflected from planets is more of a steady glow.

The last time five planets have glowed like this in a singular line was between Dec. 15, 2004 to Jan. 15, 2005.

Another celestial treat visible via telescope or binoculars in predawn skies is Comet Catalina. The two-tailed comet is passing by Venus. According to Space.com, the comet probably hails from the Oort cloud. The comet is on its way from circling the sun and will continue its journey into the outer Solar System. Comet Catalina was closest to the Earth on Jan. 17.

*originally published at the now defunct Examiner.com

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