PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – If you look up into the sky in the early morning hours of these final days of June, you’ll be able to see five visible planets twinkling near one another above the horizon.
Jim Todd, the director of space science education at OMSI, calls the occurrence a “planet extravaganza” and said it’s something astronomy enthusiasts have been looking forward to.
All seven planets, plus Pluto, will be arranged nearly in a line, although only Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible to the human eye.
“The key is Mercury is gonna be just high enough above the eastern horizon,” Todd said. “What we’re looking for is that Mercury is going to be high enough that it’s not so close to the horizon and to the sun.”
People in the Pacific Northwest could spot all five planets in the sky at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22, but Todd said the best time to see them will be on June 24 and 25 at around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. This is when Mercury will be at its highest altitude, which will make it easier to spot.
Todd said Venus will be the brightest planet, then Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Mercury can be identified by how close it will be to the horizon.
To view the planets, Todd suggests getting away from city lights and tall trees. Spectators will need a clear view of the southeastern horizon. The weather near Portland is expected to be clear and free of clouds until June 28, which should allow people an unobstructed view of the night sky. All five planets will be most visible about 1 hour and 45 minutes before sunrise.
A phone camera, on a tripod and adjusted to the right settings, might be able to capture beautiful photos of the planets, Todd said. Otherwise, those shooting with a DSLR camera will need at least a 12 to 14 mm lens with horizontal fields of view of 104 degrees to 112 degrees in order to capture all the planets in the same frame.
It’s not terribly rare for the visible planets to be lined up, but it is rare to see them all at the same time. These visible planets were last lined up in sequential order in 2004. They won’t appear like this again until 2041.
“This is what everybody’s going to be talking about for the next few days,” Todd said. “This is pretty phenomenal.”