How to see 5 planets align in order for first time in 18 years

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The five so-called naked-eye planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — are having a rare solar system reunion right now.

In the morning hours throughout June, early risers have been able to catch the planets in the sky from low in the east to higher in the south. This is what astronomers refer to as conjunction.

What makes this event even more unique is the planets are visible in their natural order from the sun. Not since December 2004 has this occurred, according to Sky & Telescope magazine.

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Two or three planets strung across the sky is fairly common, but getting the fab five together at once happens much less often.

“Planetary conjunctions traditionally have been more the stuff of astrology than serious astronomy,” said Mitzi Adams, a NASA astronomer and researcher in a blog last month, “but they never fail to impress during observations, particular when the gas giants are involved.”

And the parade of planets is about to get even better for viewing. The gang will again line up in order Friday morning, June 24, with Mercury much easier to spot. The peak time to see the conjunction is after dawn and it will last about an hour before sunlight washes out the sky.

“But the real bonus is the waning crescent Moon positioned between Venus and Mars,” the magazine said in a statement, “serving as a proxy Earth.”

Skywatching experts recommend checking the southeastern horizon any morning between now and Friday if the weather forecast is cloudy for that day.

In the next few months, the planets will appear to spread out farther and farther each morning. By September, Venus and Saturn will exit the stage.

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