"They're all on the same side
of the sun and stretched across the sky and that's
what is kind of pretty."
Myles Standish, astronomer
(AP) Five planets are arrayed across the
evening sky in a spectacular night show that won't be
back for another three decades.
For the next two weeks, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter
and Saturn the five closest planets — should be easily
visible at dusk, along with the moon.
"It's semi-unique," said Myles Standish, an astronomer
at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"They're all on the same side of the sun and stretched
across the sky and that's what is kind of pretty."
Standish missed Monday evening's opportunity, but said
Tuesday that he will gaze up when he walks his dog
this week and next. He expects mountains and bright
city lights to hamper his view, however.
The planetary lineup will be visible to the naked eye
every night for an hour after sunset from around the
world through early April. At the end of the year, the
same five planets will reunite for a few weeks, but in
the pre-dawn hours.
Standish said this particular planetary grouping may
offer the best nighttime views until 2036.
The orbits of the five planets take them to the same
side of the sun every few years or so. The conditions
have to be just right for all five planets to be
clearly visible at dusk or dawn; Mercury is often
tough to catch. Even rarer are so-called alignments,
where the planets are clustered together in the sky;
this is not one of those.
Stargazers should look to the western horizon just
after sunset. Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn will be
lined up in the sky with Jupiter close to the eastern
horizon. They will span about 135 degrees. Saturn will
be almost directly overhead.
The five planets and the moon visible on the
night of Saturday March 27, 2004
taken from my driveway on March 24 showing the
conjunction of the Moon and Venus.
The sunlight on the moon is overexposed, but I
cannot help that on a static base from my camera.
The planet Earth is moving one way, and the moon
and Venus are moving, too.