On Monday, April 7, the five planets Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Uranus will be aligned across the sky.
At this particular time of the year, amateur astronomers at Messiah marathon They will attend. The late astronomer of comets first Don Machholzfound that this phenomenon occurs around the time of the new moon and within a week or so after the vernal equinox.
It is at this time of the year that all the 110 different objects in the deep sky that were discovered by the French astronomer, Charles Messier, listed are exposed. Those with telescopes and a good knowledge of the sky will stay up from dusk to dawn searching for and documenting as many Messier objects as they can. Occasionally, organized marathons are held, such as the recent International Star Party in Flagstaff, Arizona. Even for die-hard amateur astronomers, the Messier Marathon is a significant observational challenge.
A different kind of challenge is presented to the sky watchers in the evening of April 7. Maybe we can hit the 1986 song by the band The Bangles Read on, because that night will truly be a “Monday Mania” and there’s a chance to see five planets, a famous star cluster, and the moon all in one night.
But like the Messier Marathon, observing all of these celestial bodies will be a challenge, especially some of the planets.
In fact, if you hope to see two of these distant worlds, it is strongly recommended that you choose an observing site with a clear, unobstructed view of the western horizon.
Make sure you don’t have anything tall—buildings or trees—in that direction.
Interestingly, the first two planets of our system are easy to study. One is the smallest planet (Mercury) and the other is the largest planet (Jupiter).
Once you’ve found a good viewing spot, wait approximately 20 to 25 minutes after sunset with binoculars in hand. Your viewing time will be short and both planets will set from the horizon only 25 to 30 minutes later.
Both planets will shine brilliantly. Mercury shines at magnitude -1.4, which is just a little less than Shahabhangis the brightest star in the sky. At magnitude -2.1, Jupiter, which is twice as bright as Mercury, looks even more stunning. But what makes an observation difficult is that it is very difficult to see both objects during twilight.
Your best chance of seeing both planets first is to look slowly down along the western horizon with binoculars. Once you’re sure you’ve found them, look for them with the naked eye.
Mercury will be brighter to the right of Jupiter. On the evening of April 7, they will be separated by only 1/3 degree (a little more than a finger’s breadth at arm’s length).
If you see them, congratulate yourself. Seeing two planets so close to the setting sun is no small feat. Within a day or two, Jupiter will disappear from view in the glare of the Sun. On the other hand, Mercury will move away from the Sun and will be a little easier to see in the next few weeks.
Unlike Mercury and Jupiter, the third planet on our list is very easy to observe: the dazzling Venus, also known as the “Evening Star”. It is the first planet to look for when the sun sets.
Venus grows increasingly bright as it slowly rises higher in the western sky each night. Venus is currently setting shortly after sunset local time. But in two months, Venus will be significantly higher in the west-northwest sky starting about an hour after sunset, and won’t set until near midnight.
A moving planet
The fourth planet on our list is Mars. A few months ago, Mars was very bright due to its proximity to Earth. On November 30, the planet was 81 million kilometers from us and appeared as a very bright, fiery, colorful star that sparkled with a steady glow.
A week later, like two racing cars racing around a track, we passed Mars in their respective orbits—Earth in the inner orbit and Mars in the outer. And since then, we’ve come a long way from Mars.
On March 27, Mars will be 211.4 million kilometers from Earth—more than 2.5 times farther than it was late last fall. In this way, Mars has become dim and appears only 1/13th bright compared to the beginning of December.
However, it is still relatively obvious, as it is among the 21 brightest stars in the night sky in terms of brightness.
And you can instantly identify it by looking at the fifth celestial body of the evening, the Moon. On this night, our planet’s natural moon will resemble the waxing crescent phase. And if you look to the upper left of the moon, that bright yellow-orange body is Mars.
Now use the binoculars again and look to the left of Mars. star cluster M35 in Gemini constellation Or Twins you will see
Walter Scott Houstonthe ancient deep sky essayist in the field of telescope and night sky objects, wrote:
“I feel that M35 is one of the largest objects in the sky. Observers with small telescopes will recognize it as a magnificent object. The cluster appears as large as the moon and fills the eye with bright stars from center to edge. With 15×65 binoculars, this cluster looks like candy. It means completely white and shining.
The seventh planet of the solar system
Our fifth and last planet, the penultimate planet from the Sun, is Uranus.
On very dark, clear nights when Uranus is barely visible to the naked eye, use Venus as a guide to find it.
On Monday, it will be just three degrees—about one-third the width of your clenched fist—to the left and above of that bright planet. Again, use your binoculars to examine this area of the sky. What you’re looking for is a faint object, the tip of which will be pale green in color.
Uranus is the third largest planet and next to Neptune, it is the farthest planet from the Sun.
So you have these in the sky: five planets, a famous star cluster, and the moon. Think you can spot all seven crimes? As we mentioned, some will be easy but others will be more difficult.
If the skies are clear on Monday evening, good luck and good hunting!