Before sunrise on July 19, five planets–Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn–and the crescent moon will all be visible in the sky at the same time. And better yet, you won’t even need a telescope to see them!
The five planets and crescent moon will simultaneously be visible to the naked eye 45 minutes before sunrise on Sunday, July 19, astronomy educator Dr. Jeffrey Hunt wrote in a blog post. They’ll be curved across the morning sky, so you’ll want to “find a spot with clear horizons in the east-northeast and the southwest,” Hunt advises.
How do you recognize which planet is which? Two hours before sunrise, you’ll already be able to spot Jupiter in the southwestern sky with the ringed planet Saturn above it and to the right. Mars, aka the red planet, will be visible on the southeastern horizon. Venus blazes in the eastern sky, and Mercury will be to the right of the moon–which will be very low in the east-northeast, reports Space.com.
Although you don’t need a telescope, a pair of binoculars might help you spot the moon, Mercury, and Jupiter because of how low they will be in the sky. If you’re looking for helpful degree measurements or want to know how to set up your telescope for a closer look.
Set your alarm and wake up early this Sunday, July 19. About 45 minutes before sunrise, you'll be able to see five planets and the crescent moon without using a telescope. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and the moon, all will be visible.
Jeffrey Hunt, an astronomy educator, and former planetarium director who has written about the event in a post on his site, When the Curves Line Up, talked me through how best to get a glimpse.
"Step outside early in the morning, at least an hour before sunrise," Hunt said. "Find the four bright planets -- Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. They look like overly bright stars. Brilliant Venus is low in the east-northeast. Mars is the lone 'star' in the southeast, and Jupiter and Saturn are the stars in the southwest. To your eyes, they won't look like the photos made by spacecraft, just overly bright stars."
Mercury might be the toughest to spot. Hunt advises trying for Mercury about 45 minutes before sunrise, using binoculars.
On his website, Hunt offers tips for finding each planet. Venus, he says, will "blaze in the eastern sky." The thin crescent moon will be very low in the east-northeast part of the sky, and will only be about 1 percent illuminated. Mercury will be to the right of the moon, Mars will be about halfway up in the sky in the south-southeast, Jupiter will be just above the horizon in the southwest, and Saturn will be to the upper left of Jupiter.
Newbie stargazers may want to seek out some technological help. "Google Sky, Night Sky, and Star Walk are apps that may help early risers locate the planets in the sky," Hunt says.
The sight will be visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres. From south of the equator, Hunt notes, Mars is in the northwest rather than the southeast.
If you miss out, you'll still be able to see the five planets in the sky for a few additional mornings after July 19, but you won't also see the moon.
"On successive mornings, look 3-4 minutes earlier each day," Hunt advises. "You may catch (the five planets) in the sky until about July 25."
Miss this five-planets-and-the-moon gathering, and you'll have a bit of a wait. We'll next get to see this gathering in late June 2022.