Spectacular Solar System Smile

Respond to this Friday Faithfuls challenge by writing anything about outer space, or you can go with anything else that you think fits.  A rare, large planetary alignment of Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars will be visible in the night sky with March 28, 2023, being the best day for observation.  They will be in an arc formation within a small 50-degree sector in the sky on the nights of March 25 through 30, alongside the moon.  The planet parade will have Jupiter and Mercury located closer to the horizon, Venus and Uranus will appear higher up and Mars will shine near the moon.  Jupiter may sink into the sunset and get lost in sunlight after the 28th.

Venus, Mars and Jupiter will be easier to see with the naked eye compared to Mercury and Uranus, which you will likely need binoculars or a telescope to view.  Venus is the third-brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, so that should not be a problem and it will be located in the constellation Aries and Jupiter will appear as a bright light.  Mercury and Jupiter will be the closest to the western horizon in the constellation Pisces, but Mercury will be nearly impossible to see without the aid of advanced technology.  Uranus will be above and to the left of Venus and it should appear to look like a green star and the not-quite-quarter crescent moon will be located just above Mars, which should be easy to pick out because of its reddish-orange glow.  Celestial objects will appear in the following order from left to right, Star Cluster Messier 35 (M35), Mars, the Moon, Uranus, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury.  M35 is a large open star cluster 2,800 light-years away that can be seen near Castor’s right foot in the constellation Gemini the Twins.

Five planets plus the moon will all be visible in almost an arc shape as seen from Earth in this relatively rare cosmic event, as Earth enters the equinox.  If you want to spot all five planets in one night, timing, dark skies, and a clear view of the horizon are key.  If you stay up all night, or wake up again before dawn, you may spot Saturn hanging low on the eastern horizon just before sunrise on March 27 and 28.  During the month of March, Ceres will be located behind the Earth in respect to the Sun, which means it will be visible throughout the night and is at its brightest for the year.  Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and it’s the only dwarf planet located in the inner solar system.

You may be able to see some of these planets from the city, but you would increase your odds by getting far from city lights, and going to a place with dark skies, before sunset.  Make sure to check the weather and plan for a cloudless evening.  Set up in a spot with a clear, unobstructed view of the western horizon, no mountains, buildings or trees blocking the sunset!  You’ll need to peer low on the horizon to spot Jupiter and Mercury.  Make sure the Sun is below the horizon, so you don’t potentially harm your eyes by looking at it through binoculars.  Actually, catching all five at the same time could prove challenging depending on where you’re located. 

Unlike stars, planets do not appear to twinkle, but rather have a steady light.  Planetary alignments are when several planets gather closely on one side of the Sun at the same time and they are different from a planetary parade, which is a colloquial term that refers to when several planets are visible in the sky at once.  Another five-planet alignment of Mercury, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn can also be seen June 17 within a 95-degree sector.  Last June, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn lined up in that rare order being the same as their natural positions from the Sun which happened for the first time since December 2004.  If you are still around on September 8, 2040, you could view the rare alignment of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Mars.  Keep your eyes on the skies while all five planets continue to roam around each other in the final days of March, as a major part of our solar system will be visible right outside your window.  A planetary alignment depends on the amount of time each planet takes to complete one orbit around the sun, and because the duration for each orbit differs per planet, this explains why planetary alignments are rare especially those larger in size, like this one.


  1. Reblogged this on A Unique Title For Me and commented:

    Mercury completes one orbit every 88 days, and Venus takes 225 days to do that. The outer planets move a lot slower, while Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun, Saturn takes 29, Uranus takes 84 years to orbit the Sun and Neptune orbits the Sun every 165 years. As long as planets are visible, which happens unless they’re on opposite sides of the Sun from our point of view, they will eventually line up. Mercury orbits the Sun faster than any of the other planets moving at 107,082 miles per hour and the further the planets are located from the Sun, the slower they move. Venus travels at 78,337 miles per hour, Earth is going 66,615 miles per hour, Mars 53,853 miles per hour, Jupiter 29,236 miles per hour, Saturn 21,675 miles per hour, Uranus 15,233 miles per hour, and Neptune is only traveling at 12,146 miles per hour.


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