See 5 planets align in order for the first time in 18 years
A ‘planet parade’ of five worlds appearing in order of their distance from the sun will light up the dawn sky this week, in a rare show not seen in 18 years.
Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere have been able to look at Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn since early June.
Mercury, however, was very faint and was close to the horizon, meaning it was difficult to see with the naked eye.
That will change this week, when Mercury will climb higher and appear brighter than before, giving early risers the best chance of seeing the full planet parade.
It’s not uncommon to see two or three planets close together, but this is the first time since December 2004 that five of them can be viewed from Britain in order of their distance from the sun.
Putting on a show: Early birds get a rare treat on Friday when they get their best chance to see five planets aligned in a special way for the first time in 18 years. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be lined up in order of their distance from the sun (shown in this image)
WHEN WILL THE FIVE PLANETS APPEAR ABOVE THE HORIZON?
Mercury has been the faintest and quite close to the horizon since the show began on June 3, before disappearing into the glow of sunrise.
However, this Friday (24 June) is easiest to spot.
The planets have risen above the horizon at the following times:
Saturn: 01:30 BST
Mars: 02:45 BST
Jupiter: 02:45 BST
Venus: 04:00 BST
Mercury: 04:30 BST
The five worlds will shine in a row because they all travel on the plane of the solar system, known as the ecliptic.
However, they won’t be as close as they seem, because each planet is millions of miles away from the others.
As June has progressed, Jupiter has separated from Mars and Saturn has moved even further along the arc.
One of the best days to try and spot the alignment is Friday (June 24), when a crescent moon will also be visible between Venus and Mars.
It will act as a stand-in for Earth in the view of the first five planets from the Sun.
The peak time to see the conjunction is after sunrise, and it will take about an hour for sunlight to wash out the sky.
However, if it’s cloudy that day, experts say people should check the southeastern horizon every morning between now and then to see if they can catch a glimpse of the rare sight.
Professor Beth Biller, personal chair of exoplanet characterization at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Astronomy, told MailOnline: ‘This is a great early bird opportunity to see all five planets with the naked eye at once – usually they are divided. between early morning and evening sky.’
dr. Samantha Rolfe, the chief engineering officer at the University of Hertfordshire observatory, suggested using the Stellarium app to find Mercury in the morning sky.
Amateur astronomers don’t need to use binoculars or telescopes if they don’t have them, she said, before adding: “Check the weather forecast for clear or even partially clear skies and set an alarm — it’s worth getting up.” in front of .
Stargazers have enjoyed the opportunity to gaze at Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all at once, although the closest planet to the sun was quite difficult to see
“Planetary conjunctions have traditionally been more the stuff of astrology than serious astronomy,” Mitzi Adams, a NASA astronomer and researcher said in a blog last month, “but they always impress during observations, especially when the gas giants are involved.”
During June Mercury was the faintest of the five planets and quite close to the horizon before disappearing in the glow of sunrise. But it was easier to spot as the month went on.
dr. Greg Brown, the public astronomy officer at the Royal Museums Greenwich, said of all the planets it’s easiest to see Venus and Jupiter.
Venus has appeared above the horizon from about 04:00 BST and Mars and Jupiter at about 02:45 BST.
Saturn, rising above the horizon from about 1:30 a.m. BST, was difficult to see at dusk, along with Mars, while Mercury appeared around 4:30 a.m. BST and stayed close to the horizon.
Over the next few months, the planets will appear to be spreading out further each morning before Venus and Saturn leave the scene in September.
DOES PLANETARY ALIGNMENT HAVE ANY 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 believe that all planets will eventually orbit around the same line.
In reality, the planets do not all rotate perfectly in the same plane. Instead, they meander around in different orbits in three-dimensional space. For this reason, they will never be perfectly matched.
Planetary alignment depends on your point of view. If three planets are in the same celestial region from the Earth’s point of view, they are not necessarily in the same celestial region 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 that all the planets’ gravitational fields add up to create something huge 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 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 the Earth is strong because the moon is so close.
The Sun’s gravity causes the Earth’s annual orbit and therefore, combined with the Earth’s inclination, 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 extra strong tides seem to make the water seem to spring up the shore every two weeks – not that they only occur in the spring.
Source: dr. Christopher S. Baird/West Texas A&M University