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You can see five planets aligned in the sky this month

People watch the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn near Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania, Va., on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP) People watch the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn near Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania, Va., on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP)

This month, early risers in Canada could see five planets aligned in the eastern sky: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

"You will see several bright objects in a row if you look to the east before the sunrise," astrophysicist Elaina Hyde told from Toronto. "I would say the very best days to look would be June 10 or 11."

Hyde is the director of the Allan I. Carswell Observatory and an assistant professor in York University's department of physics and astronomy. She says Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible to the naked eye.

"Mercury and Uranus are there as well but for Mercury you will need a very dark sky sight and for Uranus you will need binoculars or a small telescope," Hyde explained.

With clear conditions and an unobstructed view of the eastern horizon, most Canadians will be able to see the planetary alignment during the hour before sunrise until early July. The planets' positions will change throughout the month. From June 21 to 25, Hyde says sky gazers and astrophotography enthusiasts will be in for additional treat.

"We have the moon moving in, which is going to be spectacular, because it's a crescent moon," Hyde said. "You're going to have this super thin crescent moon getting closer and closer to where the sun is rising from."

To help locate the planets, remember that Venus is the brightest object in our sky after the sun and moon, followed by Jupiter. Mars is a distinct orange colour. Saturn appears yellowish. Mercury is the hardest to find, and will be closer to the horizon. Programs and apps like Stellarium and Sky Map can help identify what's above you.

"To differentiate between planets and stars look for objects that do not 'twinkle' as much as the other stars," Hyde advised. "The light reflected by the other planets in our solar system behaves a little differently."

Gazing down on our solar system, the planets are not actually in a line in space, but only appear so from our perspective on earth.

"The last time all five naked-eye planets were aligned like this was in 2020 and before that in 2016," Jan Cami, a professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, told "What is perhaps rare about this particular alignment, is that they line up in sequential order – i.e. they are visible in order of their distance from the Sun! The last time that happened was in 2004, and it will happen again in 2040."

Cami, who is also the director of the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory in London, Ont., says Mercury should be easiest to spot around June 16.

"That is when Mercury is farthest from the Sun from our point of view," Cami explained. "Binoculars definitely help to find Mercury, and if you have a steady hand or a tripod, binoculars may allow you to see Jupiter's four largest moons or even the rings of Saturn."

But all that's really required to see Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn line up this month is an alarm clock.

"Waking up early is a requirement," Cami said. "But you can really enjoy the alignment by just looking with the naked eye. You can then consider that these planets align essentially because they all orbit the Sun in approximately the same plane!" Top Stories

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