Astronomy fans are encouraged to wake up early this month as five planets visible to the naked-eye line up across the sky in a rare event.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be seen remarkably arranged in their natural order from the Sun for most of the month of June.
The five planets have not been seen across the horizon in that order since December 2004. And it won’t happen again until 2040.
The best time to see them this month will be about 6am each morning, according to Australian Geographic.
From June 9 to 27, the Moon will make it easier to see the different planets at different times.
The best view for Saturn will be June 9, Jupiter June 22, Mars June 23, Venus June 26 and Mercury June 27.
“And if we’re lucky and the sky conditions are just right, we might even be able to see Uranus on 25 June when the crescent Moon* will appear very close to the planet,” Australian Geographic reported.
“Grab a pair of binoculars and look for a distinctly* green-coloured dot just to the right of the Moon.”
US magazine Sky & Telescope told its readers to pay attention on June 3 and 4 when the five planets spanned 91 degrees*, the smallest separation between Mercury, the closest to the Sun, and Saturn, the farthest of the five planets.
The magazine said stargazers had less than 30 minutes to see the line-up before the view of the planets got lost in the glare of the rising Sun.
But the planetary line-up was expected to be even better on June 24, when Mercury was easier to see.
“You’ll have about an hour to enjoy the sight, from when Mercury pops above the horizon to when the rising Sun washes it out of the sky,” Sky & Telescope explained.
“By this time of month, the planets are spread farther across the sky – the distance between Mercury and Saturn will be 107 degrees.”
In addition to the five planets, the waning* crescent Moon will also be in alignment* between Venus and Mars on June 24.
But by the next day, the Moon will have continued its orbit around the Earth, moving it out of alignment with the planets.
- crescent Moon: when the lit-up part of the moon appears as a thin curved section in the sky
- distinctly: in a way that is very noticeable
- degrees: the measurement of an angle
- waning: shrinking, getting smaller
- alignment: the arrangement of two or more things in a straight line
- Which five planets will line up in their natural order from the Sun this month?
- Which of these planets is closest to the Sun?
- Which of these planets is the furthest from the Sun?
- What date will the Moon also be in alignment with the planets?
- What other planet might we also be able to see on June 25 if sky conditions are right?
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1. Planet poem
Write a five-lined cinquain poem explaining this month’s rare astronomical event with the five planets in alignment.
Format for Writing a Cinquain
Line 1: One word (a noun, the subject of the poem)
Line 2: Two words (adjectives that describe the subject in line 1)
Line 3: Three words (-ing action verbs – participles – that relate to the subject in line 1)
Line 4: Four words (a phrase or sentence that relates feelings about the subject in line 1)
Line 5: One word (a synonym for the subject in line 1 or a word that sums it up)
Alternative Line 5 for older poets: Five words (a phrase or sentence that further relates feelings about the subject in line 1)
Sometimes each line is centred to create a diamond or treelike shape.
An example of a cinquain poem is as follows:
Loving, Playing, Guarding
Best friend of man
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science
What date and time are you going to set your alarm and get up to see the planets with your naked eye? Why is this a fascinating event to astronomy lovers?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and creative thinking
Early morning effort
Will you be braving the cold to get up to see the planets align?
Have you ever had to get up extra early to do something special? What was it? Was it worth getting up early for?
Share with a partner a time you have had to get up earlier than usual to do or see something special.
Use your VCOP skills to add expression and description to your retell.