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Night sky enthusiasts can often spot a few planets in the night sky, but in March, five planets align beneath the moon to create a spectacular visual. This is sometimes known as a "planetary parade" or alignment.
The best view of the alignment will be available to the public on Tuesday evening just after sunset. Cameron Hummels, a California Institute of Technology computational astrophysicist, said that much of the display would be visible by Friday and will remain so for the next few weeks.
Hummels stated that alignments such as this one occur every few years. Many of them will be visible even in areas with high levels of light pollution. It can be seen in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
You will see the arrangement just below the crescent moon. Hummels suggested that you look for the display from a location with a clear view of the western sky just after sunset. This is when the sunset streaks will still be visible and the sky has darkened but not black. Hummels advised that those living in the northern hemisphere should be looking slightly to the southwest while those from the southern hemisphere should look northwest.
Venus is the easiest planet to spot. It's often called the "evening star", as it is the brightest object in night sky, other than the moon. Although Uranus will be visible close to Venus, it can be difficult to spot the distant planet without binoculars and a telescope unless your viewing location is clear of light pollution.
Jupiter and Mercury will hover just above the horizon, beneath Venus and Uranus. Mercury can also be hard to see without special equipment because of the sun's glare, which can blind the planet. Hummels stated that both planets can be seen for approximately 20-30 minutes after sunset to those who are careful.
The planetary parade's top honor will be Mars. It will sit in a straight line between Jupiter, Mercury Venus, Uranus, Uranus, Venus and the moon. Hummels said that it is easy to spot because of its orange tint.
Hummels stated that the planets will appear "kind of like pearls on necklaces" across the night sky.
The alignment will only cover 70 degrees of sky. Hummels suggested that one way to measure degrees in the sky is with your thumb or closed fist. This should be extended from your body. A thumb will cover approximately 1 degree, and a fist that is at arm's reach will cover approximately 10 degrees.
What does this all mean?
This type of planetary alignment may only occur once in a few years. However, it is possible to see all the planets together in a smaller area of the sky. These occurrences are much rarer.
Last June's alignment was, by example, the first such since 2004. This event involved all five planets that are usually visible with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn and Mars.
Hummels stated that a planetary alignment should not be given too much significance.
He said, "It's almost like your car's odometer has a lot of numbers. Like it reaches 44 444." It's both cool and unique. It doesn't really have any meaning.
He said that fascinating celestial phenomena can often be seen in the night sky. For example, Jupiter and Venus were within half a degree of one another this month.
Sky watchers can expect to witness a 'ring-of-fire' eclipse on October 14. A total solar eclipse will also be visible in the United States in April 2024.