It's officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and half of the solar system wants to get in on the action. For the remainder of June, stargazers taking the red-eye shift will be able to see five planets line up in the predawn sky: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Remarkably, the planets will appear in order of their proximity to the sun, with Mercury visible closest to the horizon while the other planets arc neatly across the southern and eastern sky.
From Thursday (June 23) to Saturday (June 25), Earth's moon will also join the planetary parade, creating an exceptionally rare procession of celestial bodies. According to Live Science's sister site Space.com, a planetary alignment like this hasn't occurred since March 5, 1864 — 158 years ago.
While this five-planet alignment has been visible for much of June, the view improves significantly during the last few weeks of the month, Space.com added. The show begins a bit after midnight when Saturn becomes visible to the naked eye, followed by Jupiter, Mars and Venus over the following hours. Roughly 30 minutes before sunup, Mercury finally joins the party, completing the epic alignment.
From June 23 to June 25, a small crescent moon will sneak between Venus and Mars, as if standing in for Earth in the predawn planetary lineup.
To get the best view of the alignment, stargazers should find a spot with a clear view of the horizon toward the east, according to NPR. Binoculars or a telescope are recommended. If you miss the alignment this year, you won't have another chance to see the five planets line up in sequential order until 2040, NPR added.
After June, the planets will gradually start to go their separate ways, with Saturn, Mars, Jupiter and Venus starting to appear more spread out in the sky, according to NASA. By September, Venus and Saturn will no longer be visible to most observers in the morning hours — so catch them while you can.
Originally published on Live Science.
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Brandon is the space/physics editor at Live Science. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Reader's Digest, CBS.com, the Richard Dawkins Foundation website and other outlets. He holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona, with minors in journalism and media arts. He enjoys writing most about space, geoscience and the mysteries of the universe.