Several planetary alignments are expected to occur in 2023 – and the next few months in particular are set to be quite the treat for budding astronomers.
According to the astronomy app, Star Walk, ‘planetary alignment’ means one of two things.
The first is an astronomical event in which planets gather together on one side of the sun all at the same time.
The second is a visual phenomenon, as planets appear close together in a small section of the sky as we look up from Earth.
On March 28, however, a bumper night is in store for stargazers as Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars are set to gather in a small 50-degree sector.
Star Walk advises that people start observing the formation shortly after sunset using binoculars.
They should see Jupiter at a magnitude of -2.1 and Mercury at -1.3 from the horizon – which should appear as ‘two bright objects’ in the constellation of Pisces.
Higher up in the Aries constellation, people will see Venus with a magnitude of -4.0.
Uranus is likely to be a bit harder to see – pun intended – with a magnitude of 5.8.
It should, though, still be visible if you’re in a good location and have some pretty decent binoculars.
Mars will also be difficult to make out as it joins the alignment nearer to the Moon in the constellation of Gemini.
All five of the planets will still be visible a few days after March 28, should you have a telescope that you can use.
Many will wonder what the best location to see the planets is, and luckily, we have the answer.
Senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope, Rick Feinberg, tells Fox 35: “Unless you have a clear sky and a nearly flat western horizon free of obstructions such as trees or buildings, you won’t see Jupiter and Mercury.”
This is due to Jupiter and Mercury will only be visible from very low in the West just after sunset.
Some people will however be fortunate to see all five planets using just a pair of binoculars.
Feinberg notes that Venus will shine the brightest, while Uranus will be the hardest to spot without professional equipment.
Mars will be visible from high in the Southwest sky and should emit an orange hue.
He says: “On the 27th the not-quite-quarter moon is below and to the right of Mars.
“On the 28th the first quarter moon is above and to the left of Mars.”
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