The crescent will join the “parade of planets” of the five worlds, appearing in order of their distance from the sun, as they light up the sky tonight.
Mercury rose higher last night and appeared brighter than before, giving the early birds the best chance of seeing the entire alignment of the planets.
All the planets are now joined by a crescent as part of a chain that has not been seen for 18 years.
It’s not uncommon to see two or three planets close together, but for the first time since December 2004, five of them can be seen from the UK in order of their distance from the Sun.
The conjunction was brightest Friday morning but will remain visible until Monday from most parts of the world.
Show: Early birds will get a rare treat on Saturday morning when they have their best chance of seeing five planets line up in a special way for the first time in 18 years near a crescent. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will line up in order of their distance from the Sun (in this picture)
WHEN DO THE FIVE PLANETS APPEAR ABOVE THE HORIZON?
The planets rose above the horizon at the following times:
Saturn: 01:30 Moscow time
March: 02:45 Moscow time
Jupiter: 02:45 Moscow time
Venus: 04:00 Moscow time
Mercury: 04:30 Moscow time
The five worlds will shine in a row because they all travel on the plane of the solar system known as the ecliptic.
However, they will not be as close as they seem, because each the planet is millions of miles away from the others.
During June, Jupiter separated from Mars, and Saturn moved even further in the arc.
One of the best days to try and determine the alignment is Saturday (June 25) when a crescent moon will also be visible between Venus and Mars.
It will replace the Earth in the display of the first five planets from the Sun.
The peak time to see the conjunction is after dawn, and it will last for about an hour before sunlight bathes the sky.
Professor Beth Biller, Personal Chair of Exoplanet Characteristics at Edinburgh University’s Institute of Astronomy, told MailOnline: “This is an exciting opportunity for early risers to see all five planets with the naked eye at the same time – most of the time they are separated between the early morning and evening skies.” .
Dr Samantha Rolfe, chief technical officer at the University of Hertfordshire Observatory, suggested using the Stellarium app to find Mercury at dawn.
Amateur astronomers don’t need to use binoculars or a telescope if they don’t have them, she said, before adding: “Check the weather forecast for clear or even partially clear skies and set an alarm — it’s worth getting up.”
Stargazers have enjoyed the opportunity to watch Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all at the same time all this month, but until yesterday, Mercury was harder to spot.
“Planetary conjunctions have traditionally been more of a subject of astrology than serious astronomy,” Mitzi Adams, an astronomer and NASA researcher, said in a blog post last month, “but they never fail to impress when observing, especially when it comes to the gas giants.”
Throughout June, Mercury was the dimmest of the five planets and was fairly close to the horizon before disappearing into the glow of the sunrise.
But after a month it was easier to notice.
Dr Greg Brown, public astronomer at the Royal Museums Greenwich, said that of all the planets, Venus and Jupiter would be the easiest to see.
Venus appeared above the horizon at about 04:00 Moscow time, and Mars and Jupiter – at about 02:45 Moscow time.
Saturn, which rises above the horizon around 01:30 Moscow time, was difficult to see at dusk along with Mars, while Mercury appeared around 04:30 Moscow time and remained close to the horizon.
For the next few months, the planets will expand each morning before Venus and Saturn leave the scene by September.
DOES PLANETARY ALIGNMENT AFFECT THE EARTH?
The planets in our solar system never line up in a perfectly straight line like they do in movies.
If you look at a 2D graph of the planets and their orbits on a piece of paper, you might believe that all the planets will eventually revolve around the same line.
In fact, not all planets ideally rotate in the same plane. Instead, they rotate in different orbits in three-dimensional space. For this reason, they will never be perfectly aligned.
Planetary alignment depends on your point of view. If three planets are in the same region of the sky from the Earth’s point of view, they are not necessarily in the same region of the sky from the Sun’s point of view.
So the alignment is an artifact of the point of view, not something fundamental in the planets themselves.
Even if all the planets lined up in a perfectly straight line, it would have little effect on the Earth.
Science fiction and pseudo-science writers like to claim that planetary alignment means that all of the planets’ gravitational fields are added together to form something massive that interferes with life on Earth.
In truth, the gravitational pull of the planets on Earth is so weak that it does not significantly affect life on Earth.
There are only two objects in the solar system with enough gravity to significantly affect the Earth: the Moon and the Sun.
The sun’s gravity is strong because the sun is so massive. The gravitational pull of the Moon on Earth is strong because the Moon is so close.
The Sun’s gravity determines the Earth’s annual orbit and therefore, combined with the Earth’s tilt, causes the seasons to change.
The moon’s gravity is primarily responsible for the daily ocean tides. The close alignment of the Sun and Moon affects the Earth because their gravitational fields are very strong.
This partial alignment occurs every full moon and new moon and results in very strong tides called “spring tides”.
The word “spring” here refers to the fact that the water seems to bounce ashore during very high tides every two weeks, not just during the spring season.
Source: Dr. Christopher S. Baird / West Texas A&M University.