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Look Up In The Sky To See Five Planets Align

The celestial show goes on until February.

[Photo: Flickr user Christian Reusch]

People who got out of bed early today, walked outside, and looked up at the sky would have witnessed a rare celestial event. Early this morning was the first time in nearly a decade that five planets were aligned in the sky and visible to the naked eye, reports the New York Times. The cosmic show actually started at 9:20 p.m. EST last night with Jupiter making its appearance in the night sky. Next came Mars at 1:11 a.m., then Saturn at 4 a.m., followed by Venus at 5 a.m. Mercury was the last to appear at around 6:17am.

But don’t worry if you missed the celestial show this morning. The alignment of the five planets sticks around until February 20th. The best time to view the planetary alignment is 45 minutes before sunrise. If it’s a cloudless morning, the five planets should clearly stand out to you as they stretch across the sky. They’ll look like slightly bigger and brighter dots among the stars.

A simple trick to distinguish between the planets and stars is to close one eye, stretch out your arm, and slowly pass your thumb over a bright dot, Jason Kendall, board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, told the Times. If the dot blinks out quickly, it’s a star. If it dims slowly, it’s a planet.

If you just can’t drag yourself out of bed in the next month to see the alignment, you’ll have another chance from August 13 to 19, when the same planets will appear in alignment right before dusk. After that don’t expect to see this brilliant cosmic alignment for another decade.

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