There’s a rare lineup this month of five planets you’ll be able to see with the naked eye, astronomers say. It runs through the end of the month, but June 24 will be the best time to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn just before the sun rises.
This is the first time in 18 years the planet parade has been visible to the naked eye at the same time. Making it even more special, the planets will appear in their natural order from the sun, said Craig Joseph, director of the planetarium at St. Petersburg College.
Joseph plans to have special planetarium shows and telescope views at 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 p.m. Fridays this month that will focus on how to view the planets.
“It’s really neat that with the naked eye in the morning hours you can see the planets lined up like pearls on a necklace,” Joseph said.
It’s best to try to look for them in the southeastern horizon at least 30 minutes before sunrise, which is about 6:30 a.m. in the Tampa Bay area this time of year. Joseph recommends finding an open field or park, such as the hill at the St. Pete Pier, or an area with reduced light pollution for an unobstructed view.
On June 24, the planetary lineup will be even more compelling, according to Sky and Telescope, a journal of the American Astronomical Society. Mercury will be much easier to see, and you’ll have about an hour to enjoy the sight, from when Mercury pops above the horizon to when the rising sun washes it out of the sky.
But Joseph said you don’t have to wait: The planets are in view now on a cloudless morning. The real bonus on June 24 is that the waning crescent moon will be positioned between Venus and Mars.
This planetary alignment won’t happen again until June 22, 2040, at dusk and again on March 29, 2041, at dawn, according to the American Astronomical Society.
You may still want to pull out a pair of binoculars or telescope to see Uranus and Neptune, which will be very faint against the dawn light compared to the other planets. On June 24 and 25, the crescent moon will glide past the ice giant Uranus and make it easier to hunt down, especially using binoculars. Look for a distinctly green dot.
All the action will be in the east, Joseph said, and Venus will be the brightest.
“On June 26, the moon will be right next to Venus, which will be very pretty,” Joseph said.
If you go
SPC Planetarium shows: There will be free planetarium shows about the alignment of the planets at 8:30 p.m. June 8, June 15 and June 22. There will also be free shows at 7 p.m. June 10, June 17 and June 24. 6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. For more information, call 727-341-4568.