A stunning planetary alignment is coming our way—and at the end of March, if conditions are right, we’ll be able to see the five planets with the naked eye.
Planetary alignments happen when several planets gather closely on one side of the sun at the same time, according to Starwalk.space.
There are four kinds of planetary alignments:
Mini planetary alignment – 3 planets aligned
Small planetary alignment – 4 planets aligned
Large planetary alignment – 5 or 6 planets aligned
Great (full) planetary alignment – all Solar System planets aligned (+ Pluto sometimes)
On the evening of Tuesday, March 28, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus, and Mars will gather close within a 50-degree section of the sky, and you can expect to begin seeing them just after sunset.
While it’s not uncommon to see two or three planets align in the sky, an alignment of five is less common.
Jupiter and Mercury, which will shine the brightest, will be positioned near the horizon, located in the constellation Pisces. Venus will be positioned a bit higher up in the constellation Aries, with Uranus slightly higher up. And at the highest point will be Mars, located near the first quarter Moon in the constellation Gemini.
Keep in mind that though the planets do form a line, it’s not perfectly straight, and you’ll need binoculars to be able to catch a glimpse of Uranus.
Tuesday, March 28 will be the best day to observe this phenomenon, though not the only one. The alignment will be visible several days before and afterwards.
According to Rick Fienberg, Senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope, seeing all five planets at the same time during this phenomenon may be difficult and will depend on your location.
“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,” Fienberg told FOX 5.
Plus, we all know how much NYC’s light pollution gets in the way of astronomical events.
For the best chance of seeing the event though, you may want to check out the Sky Tonight app, which can help you locate all the planets in the alignment by pointing your phone up to the night sky.