For several days this month, the seven other main planets orbiting the sun will be visible from Earth in the same part of the sky. Here is how to observe this once-in-a-lifetime astrological event.
At least four of the planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) will be visible to the naked eye in the night sky. For the remaining three planets (Mercury, Uranus, and Neptune), binoculars or a telescope should make it possible for budding star-gazers to observe the full host of our solar system’s planets, Le Soir reports.
This will be possible over a period of almost two weeks, according to calculations by the French Institute of Astrology (IMCCE). Between 14 and 27 June, the planets and the moon will form a line that will be visible towards the end of the night. The optimum moment to observe the alignment is predicted to be 22 June.Interestingly, this phenomenon last occurred in December 1997 but will not happen again until November 2124.
How to see it
Those wishing to catch the event will need to be up early – around 04:30 and even 04:00 towards the end of the two-week period. Finding a place where the sky is clear is all-important, especially in the case of sighting Mercury that will only appear just before sunrise and therefore appears most faintly in the night.
"You will need to be vigilant because the event lasts only a matter of minutes," explains Pascal Descamps from the IMCCE. "I expect the entire observation period to last around 15 minutes from the moment that Mercury is highest in the sky to be visible and day breaks. The sky will no longer be fully dark."
But whilst Mercury will be the most difficult to spot, Venus should shine with unusual brilliance. To its right, Mars should also be easy to make out along with the giant Jupiter. Likewise, Saturn will be discernible and, with the help of a telescope, the rings as well should be visible.
In order of appearance, Uranus will be located furthest to the left, followed by Venus and then Mars. Neptune will sit further to the right between Jupiter and Saturn. Descamps recommends using the larger planets as a visual guide to then locate the smaller and less bright ones.
"If using a telescope or binoculars, the trick is to make sure they are really stable. Even for the brighter planets, you need to make sure that the apparatus is very stable. The best option is to use a tripod."