Five prime planets will be on parade in rare celestial alignment

Like shining beads on a necklace, five planets will line up for our amazement during a rare Northern Hemisphere alignment starting late this month and lasting into early February.  Last seen together in January 2005, stargazers braced for the chilly morning air will witness, left to right, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter positioned along a diagonal starting today and lasting until Feb. 20, 2016.  Visible to the naked eye, these bright planets can be seen while facing south, with the waning crescent moon joining the spectacle toward the end of the month.  Mercury may be a bit tricky to see without binoculars, but those with sharp eyes will spot it easier beginning the first week of February when its orbit is highest in the sky.

This celestial display comes courtesy of the rare alignment of all five planets along the ecliptic plane of their orbits, with the pre-dawn hours of the day until around 7 a.m. designated as prime viewing times.

“It’s not super-often you get to see them all at the same time in the sky, it’s like seeing all of your friends at once,” said astronomer Jackie Faherty of the American Museum of Natural History. “There they are, the other rocks or balls of gas that are running around the sun.”

So tuck in early tonight and wake up before sunrise to bear witness to this awesome planetary alignment.  And please don't forget your scarf and mittens!

(Via USA Today)

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