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If you want to try and see all five planets in the sky on Monday night, there are a few things you need to do to maximize your chances.
Exactly one month ago today I wrote about the beautiful close pairing of Venus and Jupiter that I witnessed while crossing the Atlantic. And it was really worth seeing.
Recently, the internet cheered over Five Planets Visible 2023 with over five votes million hits with a google search on the subject! Online media picked up the story and focused on Monday’s Sky show.
Yes, there are five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus – currently aligned in the western sky. On Monday, Jupiter and Mercury will be “an arm’s length” (1 to 1.5 degrees) apart, their closest in this latest sky show.
Jupiter will continue to move towards the horizon over the coming days while Mercury gets higher in the sky. But they will be very close to the horizon after sunset and not easy to see.
Venus and Mars are easy to spot visually, while Uranus is very faint and difficult to spot.
If you want to try and see all five planets, there are two things you need to do to maximize your chances.
First and foremost, you need to choose a location that offers a clear view of the western horizon – a location that has no buildings or trees and is as flat as possible. This is critical as Mercury and Jupiter will be four degrees above the horizon at 8:00 PM EDT LOW. At this point, you should start scanning the skies for these two.
Any obstacles to your view of the western horizon will likely block your view of it. I am planning to go to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to maximize my chances.
Second, binoculars, preferably wide field, greatly increase your chances of seeing Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus. Without them, your chances of seeing these three planets are minimal.
You can use Venus as a guide to find the general area of much lower Mercury-Jupiter at 8pm EDT and higher Uranus later when the sky is dark. Locate Venus in the sky, which is easy to visually identify due to its brightness. Then use the sky map, like the one above, showing the other three planets in relation to Venus, and try to find them in the sky.
Jupiter is brighter than Mercury and Uranus has a greenish hue that sets it apart from any other star. As a bonus, Mercury will be a little easier to see over the next two weeks as it’s higher in the sky, so keep an eye out for the Winged Messenger, especially on April 14 at 8:30 p.m. EDT it’s 10 degrees above that western horizon.
Mars will be over the moon and will be a breeze to see. Use binoculars to look at the moon to see its craters and dark moon Maria, which are huge impact basins due to asteroids and comets filling with lunar lava billions of years ago.
As always, check the weather but the forecasts show it should be clear in our area at least around show time.
Two weeks from today I’m going to Australia for the hybrid total solar eclipse in April, visiting the best astronomical facilities in the country and photographing the wonderfully dark night sky.