You can [theoretically] see five planets at once in the pre-dawn sky, now through February 20. It’s the first time since 2005, so it’s an exceptional event worth attempting to see.
photo from EarthSky.org
I had my doubts that I’d actually experience the sight. Living in the congested mid-Atlantic region, along the East Coast, means we don’t have much of a dark sky. Light pollution tempers the darkness, resulting in a typically medium-gray night sky with domes of brighter, lighter gray along the horizon. I can usually see the Big Dipper, sometimes the belt of Orion in season, and the North Star, but only a handful of other stars – no more than say 30. A bright moon reflecting off our recent snowfall, and the sky is even less dark.
But this morning, standing just outside my front door, with a cloudless sky – all five planets (Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars) – were clearly visible! They were strung out like charms on a bracelet, along the elliptic curve. There they were! I was so delighted I wanted to shout out to my neighbors. (But didn’t, see it was only a little past 5am on a Sunday morning.) It was definitely a fun way to start the day. On the next clear night, I’ll grab my binoculars too and see what kind of closer view I can get.
For all of my “Nature Just Outside My Door” astronomical information, I rely heavily on EarthSky dot Org. They publish a daily newsletter of happenings and their website has clear explanations and graphics of what to look for and where. The organizations’ content has greatly enhanced my appreciation and knowledge of the sky just outside my door.
If you want to know more about the five planets being visible at one time, start on this page.
Try it! Get up early and take a look – were you able to see all five planets?