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Five planets line up in the night sky for the first time in 18 years

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Washington Post

The Washington Post

Kasha Patel, The Washington Post

The waxing crescent moon at 41% exposed, starts to rise behind a golden statue as the sun starts to set in west Edmonton, November 10, 2021.
Waxed The moon with a crescent exposure of 41% begins to rise behind the golden statue on November 10, 2021, as the sun begins to set in western Edmonton. Photo: Ed Kaiser/Post Media File

The best planetary party in 18 years has begun. Just look up and join, like a 17th century astronomer.

During June, Sky-Watcher will be able to see the neighbors of the five closest planets on Earth in a row with the naked eye, but the best opportunity to see them is in June. Occurs on the 24th. As a bonus, the Earth's Crescent also sits between Venus and Mars and acts as a replacement for Earth. Sky-Watcher can see six objects, Mercury, Venus, the Earth's Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, in the order they extend diagonally from the lowest eastern positions. According to the Sky&telescope, the distance between Mercury and Saturn is 107 degrees.

"Planets are often closer to each other and farther away from each other, but this is a particularly fun order. It's a coincidence," said NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller. "This is like such a really fun tour of the solar system, which is available for free."

Astronomers see when celestial bodies emerge from Earth. It is called a conjunction. The union of some planets is fairly common and occurs every few years, but all five planets line up only once every 20 years. The last alignment of the five planets was in December 2004, and the next alignment will not occur until 2040. Due to the different orbits and slopes, not all eight planets will be perfectly aligned.


Telescopes and binoculars help you look at the sky, but planets shine brighter than the surrounding stars and are easy You can see it in. Spot with the naked eye. Go out about 30 minutes before sunrise and expect a clear horizon. Dark skies are better, but planets stand out even in the city lights.

"Even in the city, these are bright enough-you should be able to see them. Go up to your friend's balcony or rooftop. You can see, "Taller said.

Mercury is the most difficult to see on the planet because it is close to the Sun. Small dim planets are usually lost in the glare of sunrise and sunset, but as the moon advances, the planets gradually move farther from the Sun. On June 24, the discovery of Mercury will be much easier, happening an hour before sunrise. Having seen Mercury for only about half a dozen in her lifetime, Taller experienced her best show near Dulles International Airport.

Thaller said that rare planetary alignments pose no danger to people on Earth, but the gravitational pull from all planets on one side is less than ever through the Earth's tides. You can observe it. Due to its distance, Venus exerts the greatest tidal force on Earth, but only slightly compared to our Moon. According to Taller, spacecraft can also feel very small forces on the scale of a fraction of an atom as gravity from the planet pulls them.

The sightings of the union of planets have been made for centuries, dating back to the ancient Greeks, who have observed the movements of these five planets with the naked eye. (Uranus, Neptune, and the dwarf planet Pluto were not discovered until the invention of the telescope in the 17th century.) At that time, people thought they were gods or spirits. The word "planet" comes from the Greek word "planet" which means "wanderer".

"People noticed that these are different ... most stars stayed in their position relative to other stars, but these planets seem to be wandering in the sky. "Taller said. "I happened to be lined up in a part of the sky."

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