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Three planets will align in a planetary parade this weekend

If you’re an avid stargazer or just someone who appreciates the beauty of the sky, you’re in for a treat. This weekend, astronomers and enthusiasts all across the U.S can witness a celestial spectacle – a planetary parade, according to NASA.

Preston Dyches of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a public engagement specialist with an astronomy background, shares insights about this phenomenon. He also hosts NASA’s “What’s Up,” a monthly video series detailing the marvels of the night sky.

Different kind of parade

Were you among those left wanting more after the previous planetary parade on June 3? Well, this one promises to be different.

Both Dyches and Andrew Fazekas, the communications manager for Astronomers Without Borders, had hinted it wouldn’t be the best time to view the parade. They advised stargazers to hold on for a little while, wait for a better opportunity.

Why you ask? Well, June 3 was a Monday. Who wants to rise before the sun on a workday, right? And to add to it, the sun’s light back then would have washed out the planets aligning closest to it.

In this Saturday’s Planetary Parade, Uranus, Mercury, and Jupiter are high enough in the sky, so the sun won’t steal their show.

Front row seat to the planetary parade

Can you also view it on Friday? Apparently, yes. However, note that the moon’s position varies on both days. And the real deal, as Dyches puts it, the “closest thing to a planet parade,” is on Saturday.

Now, you might be wondering, what’s a planetary parade anyway? It’s an astronomical jamboree where the planets align in a straight row, marching across the night sky like a procession. The event is also known as a large planetary alignment.

What you’ll be able to see

Ready your telescopes! According to SkySafari Pro, the planetary parade on June 29 will showcase:

  • Jupiter, the giant, closest to the horizon.
  • Uranus, the tilted planet.
  • Mars, our red neighbor.
  • The Moon, our loyal partner.
  • Neptune, the windy world.
  • Saturn, with its spectacular rings.

Preparations for the parade

Eager to catch an amazing celestial show? Consider the following:

  • Wake up early, right before sunrise
  • Find a clear spot facing East or Southeast
  • Grab binoculars or a telescope for the best view

Witnessing these cosmic events can boost your understanding of the universe and spark a lifelong passion for science and exploration. Get ready for an inspiring morning of stargazing and wonder.

Importantly, some planets are tricky to spot with the naked eye. Use apps like Skyview to turn your phone into a handy celestial guide. But don’t forget, binoculars and telescopes are a must for the full experience.

“Neptune is a planet that you need strong binoculars or a small telescope to be able to see,” said Fazekas. “And it’s not easy to find either.”

Setting realistic expectations

While this planetary parade is indeed fascinating, it may not match the grandeur of a solar eclipse or the northern lights. Fazekas advises against setting expectations too high, as it might lead to disappointment.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to witness the increasing interest in sky-watching. The allure of a celestial parade captures our innate curiosity and wonder.

Science behind planetary parades

Planetary parades, or planetary alignments, are fascinating displays in the vast dance of our solar system. These alignments happen because of the planets’ elliptical orbits around the sun, all governed by gravity and celestial physics. 

When we see a planetary parade, we’re witnessing a temporary lineup where several planets appear almost in a straight line from Earth. This occurs periodically as the planets’ orbits bring them into the same general area of the sky.

The charm of these events goes beyond their visual beauty; they offer incredible scientific insights. By studying planetary alignments, astronomers gather valuable information about orbits, planetary atmospheres, and gravitational forces at play in our solar system. 

These parades also allow scientists to compare planets in similar observational conditions, helping us understand their unique traits and behaviors.

Ancient civilizations found planetary parades just as captivating. The Mayans, Greeks, and Babylonians carefully recorded these alignments, often giving them significant cultural and astrological meanings. Today, our understanding of these events is rooted in science, yet the sense of wonder they inspire remains just as strong.

So, prepare to delve into this astronomical spectacle. Join us in observing the planetary alignment this weekend. See you under the stars!


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