According to astronomers, Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter will appear neatly in the pre-dawn sky in a rare celestial spectacle later this month.
Starting April 17, the four planets will appear diagonally, with Jupiter closest to the horizon and Saturn highest.
In the Northern Hemisphere, they’re most visible in the southeast on April 20, just next to the rising sun in the east, although Jupiter may be obscured by the sun’s light until the last week of the month, NASA says.
In the southern hemisphere, the planets will be visible at the same time of the month, but further east and at a steeper angle.
The moon will align in its neat alignment with the four planets appearing further south during the last week of April, just to the right of Saturn.
Members of the public do not need a telescope to view the planets, which are best viewed under clear skies with no clouds.
From mid-month, the four planets appear diagonally, with Jupiter closest to the horizon and Saturn highest
The moon will get higher and higher in late April as the four planets align in the sky
In a sky full of stars, the planets can be identified by their apparent lack of sparkle. Stars twinkle, while planets usually shine steadily.
The last time Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Venus lined up like this was in 2020 and before that in 2016 and 2005.
ALIGNING THE PLANETS: IMPORTANT DATES
April 17: Alignment begins to form
20th of April: Alignment is most visible
April 23: Moon is also in a row
April 29: Moon gets too close to the sun to be visible
Source: Live Science
Jake Foster, an astronomy educator at Royal Museums Greenwich, told MailOnline the alignment will be on display until early May.
All the British public has to do is look ‘before sunrise with its face to the east’ at four bright points of light. low on the horizon.
“The four planets will be visible in the early mornings just before sunrise, which will be just before 6 a.m. BST on April 20,” Foster said.
‘Sunrise will creep earlier and earlier as the days go on, so it’s best to watch this alignment sooner rather than later.
“The tricky part will be to capture the planets in the relatively short time between when they rise above the horizon and when the sun follows them.
“As a result, from April 20, we will have between 5 and 6 a.m. on most mornings to view the planets in a neat line in the sky.”
It’s relatively easy to tell the planets apart with the naked eye, Foster added.
“Venus will noticeably be the brightest of all four planets, shining a bright white light. Jupiter will be the second brightest, also glossy white in color. Saturn will be clearly fainter than the other three, due to its much greater distance from the sun.
“Mars will have the most distinctive difference from the others because of its color, which appears to the naked eye as a bright orange point of light.”
According to NASA, the two brightest planets in the sky, Venus and Jupiter, are also set for their own ultra-close conjunction at the end of the month, on April 30.
This will be similar to the Mars-Saturn meeting that took place on April 4 earlier this month, where they appeared “a few finger widths apart.”
Along with the four planets in their neat line in the last week of April will be the moon, appearing further south, just to the right of Saturn
Since April 4, Saturn has been getting more and more distant from Mars every day, just as Jupiter shows itself by appearing above the horizon just before sunrise, leading to what will become a stunning planetary alignment.
“In the middle of the month, Jupiter begins to rise in the hour before sunrise, creating a quartet of planets lined up in a line across the morning sky,” NASA says.
HOW TO SEE THE PLANETS
The planets will look like bright stars, except they don’t “sparkle.” Stars twinkle, while planets usually shine steadily.
The planets also have different colors – Mercury is whitish, while Venus is bright white.
Mars can be recognized by its characteristic rust-red color.
Jupiter is a light brown color and Saturn is a yellowish brown color.
Source: Adler Planetarium
“As we enter the last week of April, Jupiter will be high enough above the horizon in the hour before sunrise for it to be easier to observe.”
Although they appear close from Earth, the planets are, of course, still millions of miles apart during an alignment.
They only seem to move closer or further apart in the sky as our view of the solar system changes from month to month.
The alignment of planets also depends on our point of view – so if three planets are in the same celestial area from Earth’s point of view, they are not necessarily in the same celestial area from the sun’s point of view.
“Alignment is therefore an artifact of a point of view and not something fundamental about the planets themselves,” said Dr. Christopher S. Baird, an assistant professor of physics at West Texas A&M University.
dr. Baird also said that planets in our solar system are never aligned in one perfectly straight line “as they show in the movies.”
“If you look at a two-dimensional chart of the planets and their orbits on a piece of paper, you might believe that all the planets will eventually orbit around the same line.
‘In reality, the planets don’t all rotate perfectly in the same plane. Instead, they meander around in different orbits in three-dimensional space. That’s why they will never be perfectly matched.’
Planets in our solar system are never in one perfectly straight line “as they show in the movies.” Very rarely do they appear
An even more impressive tuning – dubbed the “most spectacular of the year” – will take place in a few months.
On June 24, all other planets in our solar system — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — will align in the same region of the sky before sunrise.
Although Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible to the naked eye in good conditions, a telescope may be needed to distinguish Neptune and Uranus, according to Vito Technology, developer of the Star Walk app.
DOES PLANETARY ALIGNMENT HAVE ANY EFFECT ON EARTH?
The planets in our solar system are never in one perfectly straight line as they show in the movies.
If you look at a two-dimensional chart of the planets and their orbits on a piece of paper, you might believe that all planets will eventually orbit around the same line.
In reality, the planets do not all rotate perfectly in the same plane. Instead, they meander around in different orbits in three-dimensional space. For this reason, they will never be perfectly matched.
Planetary alignment depends on your point of view. If three planets are in the same celestial region from the Earth’s point of view, they are not necessarily in the same celestial region from the Sun’s point of view.
Alignment is therefore an artifact of a point of view and not something fundamental about the planets themselves.
Even if the planets were all aligned in a perfectly straight line, it would have negligible effects on Earth.
Fictional and pseudoscientific authors like to argue that a planetary alignment would mean that all the planets’ gravitational fields add up to create something huge that interferes with life on Earth.
In reality, the gravitational pull of the planets on Earth is so weak that they have no significant effect on life on Earth.
There are only two objects in the solar system with enough gravity to significantly affect Earth: the moon and the sun.
The sun’s gravity is strong because the sun is so massive. The gravitational effect of the moon on the Earth is strong because the moon is so close.
The Sun’s gravity causes the Earth’s annual orbit and therefore, combined with the Earth’s inclination, the seasons.
The moon’s gravity is primarily responsible for the daily ocean tides. The near alignment of the sun and moon does have an effect on Earth because their gravitational fields are so strong.
This partial alignment occurs every full moon and new moon and leads to extra strong tides called “spring tides.”
The word “spring” here refers to the fact that the extra-strong tides seem to make the water seem to spring up the shore every two weeks – not that they only occur in the spring.
Source: dr. Christopher S. Baird/West Texas A&M University