BLOG:  Awake early? It’s a planet superstorm! - | WBTV Charlotte

BLOG:  Awake early? It’s a planet superstorm!

(Photo Credit:  NASA) (Photo Credit: NASA)
Shot from Banner Elk at 6:30am. Seven (7) photos stitched together spanning about half the sky from the southeast to the southwest from left to right. (Photo Credit: Todd Bush) Shot from Banner Elk at 6:30am. Seven (7) photos stitched together spanning about half the sky from the southeast to the southwest from left to right. (Photo Credit: Todd Bush)
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

There are only five planets you can see with the naked eye, and all five will be visible at once over the next few weeks. This is the first time for this to happen in over a decade!  The last time this occurred was in the winter of 2004/2005.

The best time to look is at the very end of January and the first week of February about 45 minutes before sunrise. Any earlier and Mercury will be too low; any later and the sun’s twilight will wash it out.  Hopefully you have a low horizon and not lots of trees and buildings around. 

Look for Venus first, it’s the brightest object in the sky and located in the southeastern sky, pretty low. 

Now find Mercury, the tough one.  Stretch your arm out, and make a fist. Mercury is located just to the lower left of Venus, about one fist-width apart. It won’t look any different than a nice star.

Now, if you have an idea how the sun arcs across your sky, then let your eyes follow that path as you start moving to the upper right of Venus rotating toward the southern sky.

You’re looking for Saturn now. It’s a big planet, but it’s also way out there in the solar system. So it’s not terribly bright. 

By the time you are facing almost exactly south, you’ll encounter Mars.  For each planet, you’ll be looking higher and higher in the sky. 

Mars will be a bit brighter than Saturn, and you may see its reddish tint.  Finally, keep rotating toward the southwestern sky and you’ll see Jupiter. No problems here, it’s nearly as high as Mars and very bright. All five planets span a little more than halfway across the sky.

For more help, the waning crescent moon will be in the neighborhood as well and you can use that as a guide. 

The moon will be near:

Jupiter:                 January 27th

Mars:                    February 1st

Saturn:                 February 3rd

Venus:                  February 5th

Mercury:             February 6th

Quiz:  Which of these planets are closer to the sun than earth?  Which are farther from the sun than earth?

Answer:  Mercury and Venus are closer to the sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are farther away.

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