The rare naked-eye alignment of five planets will begin to “break apart” as they appear to drift further and further apart in the morning sky.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn joined together in the predawn southeastern sky this month, providing a special treat for skywatchers. The five planets seem to form an arc in the sky, all aligned, Mercury being very close to the horizon. This is the first time since December 2004 that the five planets appear together above the horizon.
While we’ve been able to see Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in the morning sky for the past two months, Mercury was a recent addition to the rare planetary alignment in June. The tiny planet appeared alongside the quartet on June 3 – only briefly glancing above the horizon before the glare of the rising sun made it difficult to see.
Related: The Brightest Planets in the June Night Sky: How to See Them (and When)
However, starting around June 10, Mercury will become easier to spot in the morning sky. The planet will reach its greatest elongation, or furthest point of sunrise, on June 16, which means it will get even brighter as the month progresses, according to EarthSky.org (opens in a new tab).
The five worlds seem to align because they travel on the plane of the solar system, known as the ecliptic. The planets are aligned in order of distance from the sun, with Mercury closest to the sun appearing lowest on the horizon, and furthest Saturn highest in the sky. To viewers on Earth, the planets all seem close together, but these worlds are actually millions of miles or miles apart.
Image 1 of 5
Unfortunately, this dramatic planetary alignment will not be visible for long. Starting in June, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus – which we’ve been able to see in the morning sky for the past few months – will appear further and further apart from each other.
Over the next few months, the planets will spread out across the morning sky “so much so that Venus and Saturn will emerge as morning objects for most observers by September,” according to the June Skywatching guide. from NASA. (opens in a new tab).
If you’re looking for a new telescope or binoculars to see the planets in the night sky, check out our guide to the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals now. Check out our best cameras for astrophotography and our best lenses for astrophotography to get your gear ready for the next planetary sight.
Editor’s note: If you take a photo of the planetary alignment and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to email@example.com.
Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us on Twitter @Espacedotcom and on Facebook.