About Astronomy — See All Visible Planets | Lifestyles
In April I wrote that you could observe four planets online. Well, folks, the show is getting better. Later this month, at dawn, Mercury joins the show. The five naked-eye planets line up from east to south. But wait, there’s more. On April 24, a thin crescent Moon appears midway between Venus and Mars.
On the 24th, the five planets begin to rise in the East during the night. Saturn rises just before midnight. Jupiter rises at 1:48 a.m., followed by Mars at 2:33 a.m. The Moon rises at 3:27 a.m. As they continue to drift west, Venus rises at 4:37 a.m., followed by Mercury at 5:00 a.m. h 17. The Sun rises at 6:36. The planets fade into morning glory as Earth spins east on its axis, causing the Sun to rise. You probably guessed that the Sun passed all night!
The informed reader will have noticed an astonishing coincidence. The planets line up in order of their distance from the Sun. The westernmost and the first to rise is Saturn, the farthest of the visible planets, and the easternmost and the last to rise is Mercury, the closest to the Sun. In addition, the Moon replaces the position of the Earth in the order of planetary orbits around the Sun. Spread out a model of the solar system before your eyes. But that’s not all! The other two planets, which are too dark to be seen without optical aid, Neptune and Uranus, and there too. Uranus is positioned above Venus and below the Moon, while Neptune sits between Jupiter and Saturn. All the planets, other than Earth, of course, are there. Even poor old Pluto is in its proper position, far to the west, about to set. Pluto was downgraded to dwarf planet status in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. I will never forgive them.
Venus in the east and Jupiter in the south are the brightest and most recognizable. They are both silver in color. Mars and Saturn are darker but brighter than the planet line stars. They are more reddish or yellowish and should also be easy to identify. The challenge will be Mercury. Not because it’s dark, but because it’s close to the horizon. Timing is key. As long as the sky is dark, it will not have risen. You’ll need to catch it near the horizon before the skies clear up.
If you take the initiative to crawl out of bed before daybreak, you will be rewarded. If you need to dodge the weather, all five visible planets will be in place for a few days either side of June 24. The Moon will move through the group daily. June 18 is near Saturn, near Jupiter on June 21, and near Mars on June 22. Enjoy.