NEW YORK (AP) — Watch the skies this week for a chance to witness the planet’s hangout.
Five planets – Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Mars – will line up near the Moon.
Where and when can you see them?
The best day to catch the whole group is Tuesday. You’ll want to look at the western horizon just after sunset, said Bill Cook, a NASA astronomer.
The planets will extend from the horizon line to about halfway above the night sky. But don’t be late: Mercury and Jupiter will drop rapidly below the horizon about half an hour after sunset.
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The spread of the five planets can be seen from anywhere on Earth, as long as you have clear skies and a view of the West.
“That’s the beauty of these planetary alignments,” Cook said. “It doesn’t take much.”
Do I need binoculars?
maybe. Cook said it would be very easy to see Jupiter, Venus and Mars because they shine so brightly. Venus will be one of the brightest objects in the sky, and Mars will be hanging near the moon with a reddish glow. Mercury and Uranus may be harder to spot, because they will be much darker. You’ll probably need to grab a pair of binoculars.
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If you’re a planet collector, Cook said, this is a rare opportunity to spot Uranus, which isn’t normally visible. Look for the green glow over Venus.
Does this happen often?
Various numbers and groups of planets line up in the sky from time to time. There was a Five Planets lineup last summer, and there’s another lineup in June, with a slightly different make-up.
Cook said this type of alignment occurs when the planets’ orbits line up on one side of the sun from Earth’s perspective.
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