Five Planets Have Aligned for the First Time in Over a Decade
Get yourself to the nearest stargazing destination before February 20.
This morning, early risers may have witnessed a rare spectacle along the southern horizon: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter—the five planets in our solar system we can see with the naked eye—have aligned for the first time in more than a decade. The event only occurs when the planets’ ecliptic planes of their orbits cross simultaneously.
Every night through February 20, each sphere will slowly twinkle into existence along the horizon line, beginning with Jupiter around 9:30 p.m. Stargazers, however, need only rise about an hour before dawn, when Mercury shows its face and completes the group before sunrise wipes them all from view.
Due to their distance, a few of the dimmer planets might not be easily discernable from the surrounding stars. The easiest rule of thumb: stars twinkle, but planets don’t. Visibility peaks around the last week of January into early February, when Mercury is at its highest point in the sky. (Budding astronomer? Bring a pair of binoculars to spot Jupiter’s four moons.)