The night skies will not be the same for next few weeks for stargazers, as five planets -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – will form an alignment in the skies and it will be visible to the naked eyes.
The planetary alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn started on 20 January and will continue till 20 February. It will be visible to the naked eyes from around the globe and the best time to watch is at dawn between January end and February first week.
For skywatchers, Jupiter rises first as night falls, and then follows Mars after midnight, before Saturn, Venus and Mercury too join the show. Jason Kendall of Amateur Astronomers Association of New York told The New York Times that Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus are visible to the eyes but needs a binocular to see Mercury at the moment. He however said that Mercury should be more visible starting February first week.
But how can sky watchers know whether it is a planet or a star?
Kendall has come up with a simple way to differentiate between planets and stars, and that is by stretching out one's arm and passing the thumb over the shinning dots in the sky. If a dot dims out, it's a planet, and it's star if it flashes out quickly.
The celestial show of these five planets appearing together in the same sky happened a decade ago in 2004.
"It's not super-often you get to see them all at the same time in the sky, it's like seeing all of your friends at once," Jackie Faherty, an astronomer from the American Museum of Natural History, told The New York Times. "There they are, the other rocks or balls of gas that are running around the sun."
According to Earth Sky, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be seen together again between 13 and 19 August this year but "Mercury and Venus will be sitting low in the west at dusk and not that easy to catch from northerly latitudes" while there are chances to see all the celestial bodies in the Southern Hemisphere.