See all Five Bright Planets Simultaneously!

See all Five Bright Planets Simultaneously!

All five bright planets will appear together in the morning sky from about January 20 to February 20, 2016. That hasn’t happened since 2005.

5-planets-ecliptic-1-25-2016-e1453216237974An EarthSky reader asked us:

When will all five visible planets be seen simultaneously?

The last time that all five visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) appeared in the same sky together was over 10 years ago, from December 15, 2004, to January 15, 2005. The next presentation will again happen for a period of about one month, starting soon!

All five planets should be visible simultaneously before dawn beginning around January 20, 2016. And they’ll remain visible before dawn from about January 20 to February 20, 2016.

View larger. Ken Christison of North Carolina caught four of the five visible planets before dawn on January 18, 2016. We expect Mercury to become visible in the morning sky during last week of January (or perhaps sooner). Seek for Mercury near the horizon and  on line with Venus and Saturn. Thank you Ken!

By bright or visible planet, we mean any planet in our own solar system that’s easily viewed without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial.

In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are easily seen in our sky because their disks reflect sunlight, and these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars.

Moreover, people around the globe can use the moon to help guide them to this showcase of planets from January 27 to February 6. The charts below are for mid-northern North American latitudes, although these planets can be seen in the morning sky from anywhere around the world.

The charts below show the moon’s position on the sky’s dome relative to these five bright planets from January 27 to February 6:

View larger. For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia see the planets similarly positioned, yet see the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. The green line on the above chart depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

View larger. For illustrative purposes, the moon appears larger than it does in the real sky. Mid-northern latitudes in Europe and Asia will see the moon somewhat offset toward the previous date. The green line on the above chart depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

Of course, you can catch most of these planets long before dawn. Jupiter rises first, in the evening hours, followed by Mars after midnight and then Saturn, Venus and Mercury. Click here for recommended almanacs that will help you find when each planet rises into your sky for any given date.

May you be blessed with clear skies for the upcoming planetary spectacle, with all five bright planets taking stage in the same sky from January 20 to February 20, 2016!

Relative distances of the planets in astronomical units (sun-Earth distance):

Distances from the sun of planets in our solar system, expressed in A.U.  Graph via planetsforkids.org

Mean distance in astronomical units (AU, or Earth-sun unit) from sun to each planet.

Mercury: 0.387 AU
Venus: 0.723 AU
Earth: 1.000 AU
Mars: 1.524 AU
Jupiter: 5.203 AU
Saturn: 9.529 AU
Uranus: 19.19 AU
Neptune: 30.06 AU

If you want to find out the distances of the solar system planets from the Earth and sun right now, click here.

The bright object here is Venus.  Saturn is above and to the right. The third bright object in this image - slightly below and to the right of Venus - is the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius.  Photo taken January 11, 2016 by Tom Wildoner in White Haven, Pennsylvania.

When will it happen again? We’ve had a number of people ask us when the next presentation of the five visible planets in the same sky will take place. It will be possible to view all five in theevening sky from about August 13 to 19, 2016. However, Mercury and Venus will be sitting low in the west at dusk and not that easy to catch from northerly latitudes. The Southern Hemisphere definitely has the big advantage for spotting all five planets in the August, 2016 evening sky.

Bottom line: All five bright planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – will appear together in the morning sky from about January 20 to February 20, 2016. That hasn’t happened since 2005.

Source EarthSky