How often can we see, with our naked eye, five planets of our solar system lined up in the sky at the same time? And what’s more, see them lined up in order of their distance from the sun? You’re right – it’s pretty rare. But this unique opportunity is now ahead of us!
Starting today and for the next few weeks, we’ll be able to see Mars, Jupiter, Saturn Venus, and Mercury lined up in the night sky, along with the Moon. If you’re into astrophotography, don’t miss this opportunity to take some amazing shots, and I’ll share some info and tips to hopefully help you on this mission.
Over the next few months, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus will appear increasingly spread out across the morning sky, NASA explains. The crescent moon joins the party on the morning of 23 June, and If you observe the sky closer to sunrise, you will also be able to see Mercury. How cool is that? Even though the planets are getting more spread out, the lineup will remain visible for most observers all the way until September.
How and when to view them?
Very early mornings will be the best time to view and photograph this celestial party. According to Sky and Telescope, one of the best for this will be 23 June, when a striking crescent Moon joins the planets. Start your observation 60 to 90 minutes before sunrise to spot Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. To see Venus and Mercury, you’ll need to observe closer to sunrise. “The Moon appears near Jupiter on June 21st; Mars on June 22nd, Venus on June 26th, and Mercury on June 27th,” this source notes, so those are some dates to keep in mind.
Plan the right time: to best plan out your shoot, you can start with this sunrise calculator to figure out the best times. Mobile apps like Nightshift and Stellarium can also tell you what time the sun rises and sets.
Weather: of course, you can’t go stargazing and shoot the night sky if it’s covered in clouds. So, make sure to use your favorite weather app to tell you when the sky will be bright enough for observing and shooting the phenomenon. Nightshift also tells you what the stargazing conditions will be at your location for the night ahead of you. Here’s my forecast for tonight. Sigh.
Avoid light pollution: even though you can see some planets even in the city, the best places for observing the night sky are far from the city lights. This especially goes for taking photos, because I believe you want to avoid the “skyglow” in your shots.
In this article, you’ll find plenty of information about light pollution and tips for getting away from it. I recommend using Dark Site Finder and its map to discover dark locations relatively near you.
[via DPReview; image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]