For the next month, sky gazers will get the opportunity see a rare event in the sky just before the crack of dawn each morning. Five planets will be lining up in the sky and will be visible with the naked eye without the need for telescopes, binoculars, or other eye-aiding equipment, although if you want a better look, they’ll certainly be helpful to have.
From January 20th to approximately February 20th, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter will all be visible in alignment in clear skies approximately 45 minutes before dawn each morning.
These planets haven’t been visible in alignment like this to the naked eye for about 10 years, so it’s a spectacular visual event that everyone should get outside to see while they have the chance.
Despite being called “naked eye planets,” they aren’t always that easy to point out in the night sky. Unfortunately, there are so many stars out there in the night sky that only some of the planets are actually easy to point out from the rest. Some of the planets are too dim to distinguish from stars.
So how can you tell the difference?
Jason Kendall of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York has a tip for you that involves using just your thumb and one of your eyes. Depending on how the light from the source in the sky behaves, you’ll be able to distinguish whether you’re looking at a planet or a star because of the way that the light is being transmitted.
Will you be looking out for these planets in coming weeks?