The planets of the solar system lined up in the sky on Wednesday night in an astronomical phenomenon visible from Earth, known as the “planet parade.”
The phenomenon, which was also visible on Tuesday night, gave skywatchers a good view of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn with the naked eye. With binoculars or a telescope, Uranus and Neptune can also be seen.
The planet parade isn’t an extremely rare event—it tends to happen at least every two years. In fact, it happened last in the eight planetary alignment.
In order to see this phenomenon, it is recommended that you look south after sunset. From east to west, the planets appeared in this order: Mars, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn, Mercury, Venus.
“People should look south about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset to catch Mercury and Venus before they are too close to the horizon to spot it,” said Vahé Peroomian, professor of astronomy and physics at USC. “Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will be visible once dark, from the southeast to the east.”
The planets can appear together in the same part of the sky as they orbit the sun, Beromian told CBS News.
He said: “Mercury completes one orbit in 88 days, and Venus in 225 days. The outer planets move much more slowly: Jupiter takes 12 years to revolve around the sun, while Saturn takes 29 years.” “So, as long as Jupiter and Saturn are visible, which is the case unless they are on opposite sides of the Sun from our vantage point, the remaining planets will eventually line up.”
It is an even greater feat for Neptune and Uranus to also be visible at the same time that they take 165 years and 84 years, respectively, to orbit the sun.
Both planets “spend a great deal of time on opposite sides of the Sun from our vantage point,” Beromian said.
On Wednesday night, Uranus and Neptune were relatively close to each other, but since Uranus is moving around the Sun twice as fast as Neptune, the planets will be farther back from each other.
As a result, Beromian added, “it will not be possible to see both planets in the night sky at the same time for several decades.”
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