Planetary Alignment: Know when you can see a cosmic show

Deepak Gupta June 22, 2022
Updated 2022/06/22 at 6:50 PM

There is a phenomenon that the Universe will present us with and that will only happen again in 18 years. Basically, it’s the most spectacular parade of planets of the year that will take place on the morning of June 24th. The curious will be able to see five planets of the Solar System lined up in the sky: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Well, actually, this will be a seven-planet alignment, as Neptune and Uranus will also join the celestial show. However, these two giant planets are too dark to be seen with the naked eye.

And how will you be able to see this cosmic show? Okay, come with us, we’ll unravel everything.

June has been a fascinating time astronomically speaking. For weeks we had several opportunities to see a very rare planetary conjunction. Without the need for binoculars and just before twilight, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were seen throughout the month.

What is a planetary parade?

It is an astronomical event that occurs when the planets of the Solar System line up in the same area of ​​the sky as seen from Earth.

Astronomical events that can be called parades of planets include:

  • events that occur when planets line up on one side of the Sun at the same time, as seen above the plane of the Solar System;
  • visual phenomena that occur when the planets of the Solar System appear in a small sector of the sky at the same time, seen by a terrestrial observer;
  • nights when all the planets in the Solar System can be seen.

Another term for a parade of planets is "apply".

The following types of planet parades are differentiated according to the number of participating planets:

  • Mini parade of planets – 3 planets;
  • Small parade of planets – 4 planets;
  • Great parade of planets – 5 or 6 planets;
  • Immense (total) parade of planets – all planets in the solar system (+ Pluto, sometimes).

The Planets of the Solar System never line up in a perfectly straight line as they do not orbit in the same plane. Therefore, during this spectacular event, it is possible to see planets aligned (or just gathered) in the same part of the sky.

When was the last time a planetary parade took place?

All the planets in the Solar System lined up on one side of the Sun at the same time on July 4, 2020. The following month, observers were also able to see all the planets in one night. On that day, the rare parade on the planet took place. All eight planets in the Solar System and the dwarf planet Pluto lined up on one side of the Sun at the same time.

The next spectacular planetary parade will take place in 2040. Five planets will participate in this parade: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The crescent moon will also be located close to the planets.

Taking into account this time frame, the phenomenon becomes more attractive. Of course, certain alignments, the most common, will happen more often.

For example, three planets line up on one side of the Sun simultaneously twice a year, four planets - once a year, five planets - once every nineteen years, and all eight planets in the Solar System - once in about one hundred and seventy years.

Think about it, there is an alignment that only happens every 170 years!

So, on June 24th what are we going to see exactly?

After realizing that we are sometimes treated to cosmic spectacles that mark our existence, on the 24th of this month the cosmos will show us a event that last happened in 2004 and that we will have to wait until 18 years from now to see him again.

Planets will appear in the east and move south (or north for those observing from the southern hemisphere). Mercury will be the last planet to appear, to complete the conjunction. While we are past the days when Mercury and Saturn have the shortest distance (91 degrees), there is now more time to see it: up to 45 minutes before sunrise.

Out of curiosity, if you don't have the opportunity to look at the sky on Friday morning, know that, according to NASA, the next parade of these planets will take place on September 8, 2040.

On that day, 5 planets will be visible to the naked eye and we will be able to locate them within a circle of about 10 degrees in diameter. The alignment will include Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The crescent Moon will also be visible, positioned between Venus and Saturn.

The technology on your smartphone can help

If you're curious like us, then you can even install applications that can help you easily locate and identify the planets in the sky's dome. Therefore, we suggest that you use mobile applications as Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight. Just point your device at the sky and the apps will show you what object you are looking at. App notifications will help you stay on top of the most notable astronomical events.

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