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Rare night sky event on tap with 5 planets and moon aligned

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At about a half-hour before sunrise on Friday, all five planets visible to the naked eye and the moon will line up in an arc across the night sky.

It will be the first time in 18 years that so many planets will be visible to the unaided eye and the first time since March 1864 that Friday’s configuration will be visible. It won’t happen against until 2040, according to NASA.

The staging for the lineup will begin shortly after midnight Eastern time as the bright yellow-white Saturn slides into the southeast sky, followed by noticeably bright Jupiter at 1:30 a.m. and orange-yellow Mars at 2 a.m.

Venus, brightest among the five plants, will join the arcing line at 3:30 a.m., just before dawn, followed at about 30 minutes before sunrise by Mercury, completing the alignment that will stretch about halfway across the sky from east-northeast to nearly due south.

The planets will then be lined up in the order of their orbits out from the sun — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — with the moon subbing in for Earth between Venus and Mars, all above the eastern and southern horizons.

Moon

The full moon is pictured on March 18, 2022.

The leader, Saturn, will be in the south-southeast area of the night sky.

Jupiter will be glowing at a magnitude of minus 2.4, which is more than two-and-a-half times brighter than Sirius, which is currently the brightest star in our sky. It will be outshone by Venus, at a magnitude of minus 3.9.

Mercury will be the dimmest of the planets. It will be very low in the east-northeast sky.

The moon will show as just a sliver, being in its waning crescent stage on Friday.

If we’re lucky enough to have clear skies during the alignment, it should be visible with the unaided eye even from cities and towns with significant light pollution.

And one final note: Make sure you have an unobstructed view of the eastern and southern horizons so that you’ll have a clear view of the moon and planets on any given morning. The best views will be either from an elevated area above any tall buildings or trees, or from a shoreline where you can look out over open water to a flat sea horizon.

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