Early risers are in for a special celestial show this week. A planetary alignment will grace the southern horizon on March 7 at around 5 a.m.
On early morning Wednesday, the alignment of bright planets Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and the former planet Pluto will be visible in the northern hemisphere sky.
This astronomical spectacle will take place just before sunrise. The Earth's moon and the planets will draw a spectacular line across the sky — the planet Jupiter, the bright quarter moon, Mars, Saturn, and Pluto.
Planets never really align perfectly, but once every few decades, the five of them — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter — can be seen in a rough line in the sky. The last planetary alignment of the five planets happened on April 2002.
How To Watch The Planets?
To view the aligned planets in the sky before dawn, use their colors as guide.
Mars will be distinctly red. Jupiter will give out a bright white light because of its clouds. Saturn will appear as pale yellow to gold, and its rings will be visible through a telescope. The giant red star Antares can be seen a little below the line formed by the three planets. To clearly distinguish the colors, use binoculars.
The three planets in the alignment will also rise at varying times throughout the night. Jupiter will be visible at around midnight and will be high in the sky at dawn. Mars will rise at 2 a.m., and Saturn will appear at 3 a.m.
Jupiter will appear like a bright star near the moon on the early mornings of March 7 and 8. On the other hand, Mars and Saturn will shine as first-magnitude stars. They will be most noticeable before dawn around March 9, 10 and 11, just when the moon is passing by them.
Passing Moon, Venus, and Mercury
This alignment of planets will last for a few days and will be visible every night for the rest of the week. The planetary alignment will be most visible on Thursday, March 8.
The moon will have its own show and will sweep past the planets. It will pass by the planets Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and one of the brightest stars, Antares, starting Wednesday until Saturday early dawn. This can be seen from south to southeast in the sky.
For the first time in March, the planets Venus and Mercury will be visible at around 40 minutes after sunset. In early March, they appear very low in the west after the sun goes down. Venus became visible after sunset since mid-February.
Venus is the third brightest celestial body after the sun and moon. Sky watchers use Venus to spot Mercury, which started to appear in the sky in early March. Venus and Mercury are only a little more than 1 degree apart in the sky.
While Venus can be seen in the early evening sky by the bare eye because of its brightness, the elusive Mercury is not that easy to spot. Mercury appears slightly dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky. Stargazers can use binoculars to view Mercury. Both Venus and Mercury sets at one hour and a half after sunset.