How to glimpse a rare phenomenon in space where FIVE planets are perfectly aligned and visible to the naked eye
- Five planets — Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus, Mars — will align on March 28
- The planetary parade will be visible with the nude – here are our top tips
A rare cosmic event will light up the night sky later this month, with five planets perfectly aligned at the same time.
Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars will line up on March 28 in a rare planetary parade.
The planets appear together just after sunset on Tuesday, but are also visible in the sky the days before and after.
Experts said Jupiter and Mercury will appear as “two bright objects” close to the horizon.
On March 28, a major planetary alignment of Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Mars and Venus will be visible to stargazers on Earth
The planets will appear at the same time on Tuesday just after sunset, but are believed to be visible the days before and after as well (Photo: A map identifying the most visible objects in the night sky on March 28)
TIPS TO SEE THE ALIGNMENT
- Move as far away from city lights as possible to a place with dark skies
- Be prepared and ready before the sun goes down
- Check ahead to make sure the weather is nice and clear
- Find a clear spot with a clear view of the horizon
- If possible, keep binoculars or even a telescope handy for a better view
However, the duo will only be visible for less than an hour after sunset before disappearing from view.
Venus will be most easily seen with the unaided eye as it is the third brightest object in the sky and will be seen higher in the sky next to Uranus.
Mars will appear bright red and be positioned quite high, visible closer to the moon.
The planetary alignment will occur within a 50 degree sector of the sky.
American astronomer Gary Swangin said that Venus, Mars and Jupiter can be observed with the naked eye.
However, binoculars may be needed to see Mercury and Uranus, he told the New Jersey Herald.
This won’t be the last chance for space enthusiasts eager to catch a glimpse, with a new planetary alignment on April 11 and later in the year on August 24.
Mercury, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn will also form another five-planet alignment on June 17.
Former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin shared his excitement about the upcoming space event in a post on Twitter, writing:
“Don’t forget to look to the sky at the end of the month for the planetary alignment which will have at least five planets – plus the moon – all visible in almost an arc shape as seen from Earth.”
Space enthusiasts can glimpse the rare planetary alignment with the naked eye, but Gary Swangin said binoculars may be needed to see Mercury and Uranus (photo, stock image)
DOES PLANET ALIGNMENT HAVE AN EFFECT ON EARTH?
The planets in our solar system are never in one perfectly straight line as they show in the movies.
If you look at a two-dimensional chart of the planets and their orbits on a piece of paper, you might think that all the planets will eventually orbit around the same line.
In reality, the planets do not all orbit perfectly in the same plane. Instead, they swing around in different orbits in three-dimensional space. For this reason, they will never be perfectly aligned.
Planetary alignment depends on your point of view. If three planets are in the same region of the sky from Earth’s point of view, they don’t necessarily have to be in the same region of the sky from the Sun’s point of view.
Alignment is therefore an artifact of a point of view and not something fundamental about the planets themselves.
Even if the planets were all aligned in a perfectly straight line, it would have negligible effects on Earth.
Fictional and pseudoscientific authors like to argue that a planetary alignment would mean adding up all the planets’ gravitational fields to make something massive that interferes with life on Earth.
In reality, the gravitational pull of the planets on Earth is so weak that they have no significant effect on life on Earth.
There are only two objects in the solar system with enough gravity to significantly affect the Earth: the moon and the sun.
The sun’s gravity is strong because the sun is so massive. The gravitational effect of the Moon on Earth is strong because the Moon is so close.
The Sun’s gravity causes the Earth’s annual orbit and therefore, when combined with the Earth’s tilt, causes the seasons.
The moon’s gravity is primarily responsible for the daily ocean tides. The near alignment of the sun and moon does have an effect on Earth because their gravitational fields are so strong.
This partial alignment occurs every full moon and new moon and leads to extra strong tides called “spring tides.”
The word ‘spring’ here refers to the fact that the water seems to spring up the shore every two weeks with the extra strong tides – not that they only occur in the spring season.
Source: dr. Christopher S. Baird/West Texas A&M University