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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Planets Visible In The Sky For The First Time In Years

Those getting up before dawn between January 22 and February 10 will get to glimpse all five naked-eye planets at once. This view is plotted as they'll appear 45 minutes before sunrise on January 25. In the days thereafter, Mercury will climb higher (closer to Venus) and get brighter — making it easier to spot. At month's end, the waning moon will join the celestial party. (Sky & Telescope diagram)

Those getting up before dawn between January 22 and February 10 will get to glimpse all five naked-eye planets at once. This view is plotted as they’ll appear 45 minutes before sunrise on January 25. In the days thereafter, Mercury will climb higher (closer to Venus) and get brighter — making it easier to spot. At month’s end, the waning moon will join the celestial party. (Sky & Telescope diagram)

A rare sight will greet early risers starting Wednesday morning. About 45 minutes before sunrise, five planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – will all be visible in the sky.

The best time to get planetary sightseeing in will be at the end of the week. By then, the five aforementioned planets will form an arch-shaped line in the sky that will be fairly easy to follow. The moon will pop up in the intergalactic line-up shortly thereafter.

To accurately identify each planet, it is best to consult a map. As shown in the diagram above, the correct order will be Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter (Venus and Jupiter are the brightest, the rest are dim).

While stargazing, it might be tempting to ponder just how far away from Earth the planets are. Closest to home is Mercury, located over 80 million miles away. Saturn, meanwhile, is the farthest from Earth, over a billion miles away.

Kelly Beatty, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the celestial event, which is happening for the first time in over 10 years.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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