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Mars and Saturn visible in planetary parade

Mars and Saturn visible in planetary parade

Planetary Parade

On Monday, a half-dozen planets formed a line in the sky but were not able to be seen all at once. During what has been called the “parade of planets,” Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn formed a slope in the sky — with a crescent moon appearing in the middle of the lineup.

While the name suggests you could see the whole lineup, just two, Mars and Saturn, were visible to the naked eye. It’s kind of throwing a wet blanket on the whole ‘parade of planets’ in the night sky,” said Noah Petro, a scientist with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project at NASA. “They will all be out here; it will just be hard to see,” Petro added on Sunday.

Viewers worldwide could see Mars and Saturn as long as there were clear skies and were willing to wake up early. If you’re a morning person or want to get up about an hour before sunrise, you’ll get to see the pair grace the skies. Petro said Mars had a faint red tint, and Saturn was the bright point in the sky.

The family portrait moment is called a planetary alignment, which happens when several planets simultaneously gather on one side of the sun. Planets closer to the sun have shorter comparative years and orbit around the sun faster than more distant planets. In these events, planets closer to the sun joined the outer planets that stay in the same sky area longer, explained NASA ambassador Tony Rice.

Mercury and Jupiter will be so low to the horizon that they won’t be visible.

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Mars and Saturn grace the sky

Uranus was very faint — and Neptune was never visible to the naked eye because it’s too dim for the human eye to see.

According to NASA, Neptune was more than six times dimmer than Uranus. A telescope was needed to see both planets—the two furthest from Earth. Rice added that not just any telescope works for Neptune and Uranus but is also very powerful.

Although seeing multiple planets in the sky every night isn’t a common occurrence, this isn’t a rare event, Petro said. Don’t despair if you missed the planetary display — you can watch for and see a few planets in the night sky every few months. If you have clear skies, you might want to take advantage of ideal conditions — you never know when clouds could obscure the show.

“Never postpone an opportunity to enjoy the night sky,” Petro emphasized. The following planetary meetup will be June 29, when Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the moon will be visible with the naked eye in the early morning hours. And if you have a telescope, you’ll get to see more details.

“The event later this month will be a great opportunity with the telescope to go out and look at Saturn, maybe see its rings. And for Jupiter — you can look for and see its moons. You’ll want to look at Mars and see that it’s red,” Petro said.

According to Petro, there will be another opportunity to see the same six planets in another pre-dawn celestial event on August 28, though Neptune and Uranus will not be visible to the naked eye.

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