More than half of the planets in the solar system will align on Monday in a rarely seen spectacle, arcing into one corner of the night sky.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus will parade across the sky, accompanied by the moon and a possible star cluster. While the scenery will be visible to the naked eye, astronomers recommend bringing out binoculars or a telescope for a more detailed view.
The planets will settle on the western horizon in an arc between 20 and 25 minutes after sunset on Monday, according to space.com, starting with Mercury and Jupiter. However, the twilight glow could mask them, Space.com warned, adding that the viewing window is only 25 to 30 minutes.
The planets will also be so close to the horizon that any structures or faults in the line of sight could obscure them. “Your best bet is to face a west-facing coastline that is perfectly flat and open with nothing blocking your view,” Space.com said.
Slightly higher, but more noticeable and with a longer viewing window, will be Venus, and on the upper left, Uranus, dim and greenish in color. Mars is next on the list, higher up and cozy next to a crescent moonaccording to Starwalk.
Monday is the best day to observe this phenomenon, but the alignment will be visible on the days before and after the highest point.
Before then, however, a massive asteroid the size of a skyscraper will whiz past Earth inside the moon’s orbit. Asteroid 2023 DZ2 is three times the size of the one that rattled the nerves and blew out the windows over the Russian industrial city of Chelyabinsk 10 years ago.
2023 DZ2 won’t get that close, but it will cruising about 100,000 miles away, halfway between Earth and the Moon, reports NASA Asteroid Watch. This will happen at 3:51 p.m. Saturday, though that timeline could be changed as observations come in.
The newly discovered asteroid, estimated by NASA to be between 141 and 310 feet across, will be traveling 17,426 mph on his way to the sun, EarthSky.org saying.
“While close approaches occur regularly, one of an asteroid of this size occurs only once a decade, providing a unique opportunity for science,” NASA said.