News World Rare planetary alignment visible to naked eye

Rare planetary alignment visible to naked eye

planetary alignment
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Space enthusiasts won’t need the latest in telescopic technology to view a rare planetary alignment currently lighting up the sky.

Five of the brightest planets in the night sky – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – have aligned for the first time since 2005.

The best part is, it is one of the few astronomical events visible to the naked eye.

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Swinburne University research fellow and astrophysicist Dr Alan Duffy said the best time to see the spectacle was between 5.30am and 5.40am, between January 20 and February 20.

“For the next month people will be able to catch the five visible planets all stretching out in this beautiful diagonal line across the early morning sky,” he told The New Daily.

“For the next week in particular, you can look to where the sun is about to rise in the east, guide up with your hand straight to where the moon will be sitting and along that line you will see five points of light.

moon and venus
Planetary alignments are extremely rare, hence the saying: “If the planets align”. Photo: Getty

“It is one of the few events in the night sky that you don’t need an expensive telescope to see, you get to enjoy this alignment.”

Some will be relatively easy to see, particularly the bright planets, Venus – which is surrounded by clouds of acid that reflect light – and Jupiter.

To see Mars, look for a reddish glow in the early morning sky, while Saturn will be surrounded by a golden tinge.

Mercury, however, will be more elusive.

“The hardest one [to see] is why this is quite special, which is Mercury, which is usually very close to the sun, so you will have to have some very sharp eyes and get up, unfortunately, pretty early – about 5.30am – to catch that,” Dr Duffy said.

“That one is going to be very low on the horizon, so you want to make sure you have not got any trees or, in particular, buildings between you and that eastern horizon.”

A location away from city lights is the best place to view the rare event, although the brighter planets, Venus and Jupiter, will likely be visible in areas with light pollution.

Museum Victoria/Stellarium
A map of the alignment. Photo: Museum Victoria/Stellarium

First alignment in 10 years

The last time this event was visible was in 2005 but, luckily, if you miss the early morning showing this time around, you won’t have to wait a decade to see it again.

“You will have a chance to see this again later in the year, in August, in the evening this time, which is a little bit nicer, but that is your last chance until 2018,” Dr Duffy said.

“It takes, in the case of Jupiter over a dozen years, versus Mercury which whips around in a couple of Earth months, but it is a reminder that purely by chance you will end up on the same side of the sun.

“It is something that our ancestors would have known incredibly well and be very familiar with, but something we have lost thanks to city lights.”

Scientifically, the planetary alignment would not advance current knowledge, but that wouldn’t stop even the professionals enjoying it.

“Just because there is no scientific value doesn’t mean we won’t be eagerly looking at it with our telescopes, it is just a rare chance to see five planets in one sighting,” Dr Duffy said.

See the video below for an explanation of the upcoming planetary alignment

Highlights from space

The past few months have provided some spectacular finds and images from space.

We have compiled a few below.

planet-2015-08-13-at-4.53.10-pm2August 2015: Scientists found a new planet that could potentially hold life, with temperatures similar to Earth.

Named Kepler-453b, it sat within a habitable zone of the Kepler-453 binary star system.

Although it could have moons that were rocky, the planet itself was likely to be composed of gas.

Read more here


mars-water2September 2015: In a huge announcement in the last half of 2015, NASA revealed they had found flowing water – and the potential for life – on Mars.

The incredible images showed rifts left by moving water, and was a key finding that could suggest the ability for life to survive on the red planet.

NASA also announced plans to reach Mars by 2030.

Read more here


December 2015:
The annual Geminids meteor shower stunned audiences across the world.

About 150 meteors per hour were seen from Earth, and images from across the world showed an incredible display of light and colour.

Read more here




space-flowerJanuary 2016: Images of the first flower grown in space surface on the Twitter account of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.

The orange zinnia flower was grown on the International Space Station, but, after fellow crew member astronaut Kjell Lindgren returned to Earth, they began to look a little worse for wear.

Read more here


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