June 13, 2024

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Planet Parade: What’s Really Happening with June’s Planetary Alignment?

Planet Parade: What’s Really Happening with June’s Planetary Alignment?

Mathias Delacroix/AFP/File

A telescope could help spot Uranus and Neptune when they appear to align with other planets early Monday morning. In most parts of the world; Sunday is ideal for observers in North America and Europe.

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There is a “planetary display” during which six planets will appear lined up in the sky near dawn, but only three planets will be visible to the naked eye – a phenomenon that is more common than it seems.

“You will be able to see Mars, Saturn and Jupiter,” said Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary astronomer and research fellow at the University of Reading, UK. “If you have binoculars and if you know where to look, you can probably see Uranus, but there’s not much point in waiting until almost sunrise — it’s better to do it early at night. The bottom line is that you can only see About half of the planets in this planetary group are visible to the naked eye.

The best day to view the spectacle in Europe and North America is Sunday, about half an hour before sunrise, according to O’Donoghue. Targeting that time frame will give you a chance to spot Mercury as well, although that may not be easy even with binoculars, he said.

“The problem is that the sun will light up the sky in that area,” O’Donoghue added. “It’s just before sunrise, but it will still be very bright in the sky, and you probably don’t want to point your binoculars too close to the sun either.”

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If you have one, a telescope will help you, especially if you hope to spot Uranus and Neptune. “But to actually be able to see these things, you have to magnify one target so much that you can’t see the others anyway, so you’re going to get rid of your entire field of view,” he added.

The order in which the planets will line up on Sunday is Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn, and they will be accompanied by a crescent moon. Later in the week, by Thursday, the moon will be out of the way — reducing light pollution, O’Donoghue noted — and Mercury will switch positions with Jupiter.

The alignment will be visible to skywatchers everywhere, but it is perfect The sighting date of planets with closest alignment may vary Depending on where you are In the world.

It is important to note that this alignment does not occur in space, but only in the sky as we see it from our planet.

“From the perspective of someone standing on Earth and looking at the sky, there would appear to be an almost straight line of planets, which we might call a planetary alignment or planetary parade,” Dr. Kate said. Patel, a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London.

“But physically, no actual alignment is happening. It’s just that most of the planets are more or less on the same side of the sun at the moment. If the planets actually aligned with each other in space, that would be called a conjunction and that’s what happened,” she added. very rare”.

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This type of planetary alignment is not uncommon at all. “There will be more in the next couple of years because the exoplanets move in the sky more slowly because they are farther away from us, which creates a lot of opportunities for these kinds of alignments to happen,” Patel said. “In fact, an even better event will likely happen next February, when we will have all the planets in the sky at the same time, including the planet Venus, which is not in this planet.”

Patel recommends that Monday, about an hour before sunrise, is the best opportunity to see the display In most parts of the world, it is more optimistic that Mercury will join the group of planets that can be seen without instruments.

“Mercury is usually visible with the naked eye if you are somewhere with low light pollution, but it is better to use binoculars because (the planet) is not particularly bright and can only be seen shortly before dawn, so it is usually against a fairly bright background.” What, she said.

An app like Stellarium Mobile or Night Sky can be useful if you’re not sure where to look, and ideally you’ll want to be somewhere with low light pollution and a low horizon, because Jupiter, Mercury and Uranus won’t be there. “Be much higher than that,” Patel said.

You should also try to be in a place with a good view of the east, because it will be roughly in the direction of sunrise. “Jupiter will be the easiest to spot, because it will be the brightest thing in the sky after the moon,” Patel said. “Other planets are not easy to spot, but they don’t shine in the same way as stars, so this is one way to spot them.”

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