Tonight is your best bet to see five planets in the Texas sky. Here’s where to look
Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Uranus will parade across the western sky shortly after the sun sets starting Saturday, March 25, through March 30. But the best time to see this conjunction is Tuesday, March 28.
Stake out a post with a clear view of the western horizon — clear of tall buildings and trees. Seeing all planets may pose a problem, especially with Mercury and Jupiter. Also, find a good pair of binoculars to help spot the planets. Space.com recommends these spyglasses.
“Once you have found a proper viewing site, and with binoculars in hand, wait until approximately 20 to 25 minutes after the sun has set” writes Joe Rao, skywatching columnist for space.com. “And your viewing time is going to be short. Both planets will set beyond the horizon only 25 to 30 minutes later.”
This is just one of several celestial events this year.
Planetary march begins with Mercury, Jupiter
Shortly after sunset, Mercury (our solar system’s smallest planet) and Jupiter (the largest) will appear low in the western horizon. It will be difficult to spot them because of the sheen of the dying evening light. Use your binoculars. Mercury will be bright, and Jupiter even brighter.
“Mercury will be to the right of brighter Jupiter. On the evening of March 27, they will be separated by just 1.3 degrees (just over one-finger width at arm’s length.),” according to Rao.
Then set your sights higher in the sky where Venus, the brightest of the bunch, will be easier to spot. Uranus will appear faint and you will definitely need binoculars. The reddish Mars can be spotted near the moon.
Although this is not a true planetary alignment, since the celestial bodies are not technically lining up, it is a good chance to see five planets all at once in the sky.
How rare is the planetary conjunction Monday?
The last time five planets were visible in the night sky was in 2020, according to livescience.com. Before that, we saw alignments in 2016 and 2005.
“Planetary alignments occur when the planets’ orbits bring them to the same region of the sky, when viewed from Earth. These planetary alignments are not rare, but they’re not regularly occurring, either,” according to the science website.