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The Whole Gang

February 1, 2016

A rare line-up highlights the morning sky the next few weeks. All five of the planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye are in view at the same time. The window is a bit tight, but you shouldn’t need any help to find them.

At first light tomorrow, look in the southeast for Venus, the brilliant “morning star.” It’s brighter than anything else in the night sky except the Moon, so it’s hard to miss. It’s quite low in the sky, though, so you probably need a clear horizon to spot it.

The trickiest of the five planets is Mercury, which is close to the lower left of Venus. It’s just about at its farthest point from the Sun, so it stands highest in the sky. It’s also quite bright. And like Venus, it’s quite low in the sky. But with Venus to point the way, you should be able to pick it out.

The other three planets rise long before the Sun, so they’re higher in the sky at first light. Saturn stands far to the lower left of the Moon tomorrow. Mars is closer to the upper right of the Moon, and shines with a distinctly orange hue. It will brighten over the next couple of months, making that color even more vivid.

Finally, the largest of the planets, Jupiter, is over in the western sky. It outshines everything except the Moon and Venus, making it an easy target as well.

All of these planets will remain in view for most of the month — a beautiful line-up of the worlds of the solar system.

We’ll have more about one of those worlds tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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