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The rare planetary “alignment” on June 3rd will actually be a conjunction: here’s how to see it

The rare planetary “alignment” on June 3rd will actually be a conjunction: here’s how to see it

A non-scale representation of the relative positions of the planets at dawn on June 3. Credits: Luca Tortorelli.

At dawn June 3, 2024 A rather rare astronomical spectacle is expected: all seven planets in the solar system except Earth (and therefore Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) will be found in our sky on the same side with respect to the Sun. Many reported that he would be there Planetary alignmentBut let’s say right away that in this case we are talking about alignment unsuitable Because the planets will not be parallel, but will follow a curved line. In this case we can talk about it Planetary conjunctionThat is, the case in which the planets appear visible in the same field of view from Earth’s perspective – in fact, we often do not see all the planets together, and the planets we do see are not always close to each other.

In fact, on June 3rd it will simply be possible to observe all the planets of the solar system in the sky. contemporary. However, it must be said that not all planets will be visible with the naked eye: Venus, Jupiter and Mercury are these days very angularly close to the Sun, and therefore their visibility will be very low. Very air conditioned From sunlight.

Unfortunately, we will have to wait a long time until we can observe a real planetary conjunction in grand style. In the 2040 In fact, the cosmic ballet of our solar system’s planets would bring Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn very close and angular in the sky near the thin crescent of the moon’s crescent.

What will be seen during the conjunction on June 3: Visible planets and the Moon

Unfortunately Observe all seven planets It will be impossible to see the solar system in the sky on the morning of June 3. Venus These days it is less than one degree away from the Sun, so it is completely impossible to see it with the naked eye. Jupiter and Mercury It is also close to the Sun, at an angular distance of about 10 degrees, so it will likely be obscured by the glow of morning twilight.

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Uranus It is already practically invisible to the naked eye, except from a sky completely free of light pollution. Moreover, on June 3 the planet rises around it 4:40 In the morning, about an hour before dawn, when the morning twilight falls upon us. Therefore, like Mercury and Jupiter, there is no real chance of seeing Uranus with the naked eye.

However, there are others Four beings Which will be able to cheer up the morning of June 3rd for lovers of the starry sky. there Moon and Mars They are actually only a few degrees away from each other and will stand side by side around the Earth 3:30 At night it remains visible until dawn. the Lord of the Rings SaturnHowever, it grows around 2 At night too it remains visible until dawn, so there will be several hours available to observe it in all its splendor, especially if done with binoculars at least. Finally we have Neptune, which is about 10 degrees from Saturn and rises around 2:30 AM. The latter is not visible with the naked eye, but it requires at least binoculars to be able to see it in the sky.

How to observe the alignment of the seven planets

As mentioned earlier, not all seven planets will be visible, but only realistically Saturn, Neptune and Mars They will be. The first in chronological order to be created will be Saturn On theOrizzonte is around 2 am. while Visible to the naked eye Such a brilliant dot of color WhiteOur advice is to keep this in mind anyway At least with binocularsIt is best to use a small telescope to see them Rings And some of its natural satellites. Saturn will remain visible until dawn, at the approximate hour 4 degrees Tall onSoutheast Orizzonte.

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Neptune It rises around 2:30 At night onOrizzonte is It remains in the sky until dawn, when it is almost exactly one hour On theSoutheast Orizzonte. Unfortunately for Neptune It cannot be observed with the naked eyebut only for telescope It will appear in colour Light blue/blue. The impossibility of seeing it with the naked eye led to the discovery of Neptune only in… 1846 This is thanks to mathematical calculations based on small deviations of the orbit of Uranus compared to those predicted by Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.

red planet, Martyinstead rises along with Luna around 3:30 At night onOrizzonte isand remains visible to With the naked eye Until dawn when it’s under 30 degrees In sight. Mars can be easily identified by its color reddishAs the color intensity increases, the light pollution in the observation location decreases. Mars will be like that Visible to the naked eyebut the view is sure to stand out if you have binoculars available, or even better a small telescope, which will allow you to hop from Mars to the Moon with ease given the small angular distance between the two celestial bodies these days.

To the naked eye, planets appear very similar to stars, but they can be distinguished by… Do not show “Tremble”As stars do. The jitter is actually due to… The turbulent nature of the Earth’s atmosphere Which for objects that appear to be pointlike – like stars – results in the kind of “shimmer” usually associated with stars. Planets, on the other hand, have a larger angular size, due to their proximity to Earth, so the effect of the scintillation is greatly mitigated. As a general rule, if the “light” appears to be flashing it is a star, otherwise it is a planet.

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Because the planets align from time to time

The idea of ​​planetary alignment comes from the fact that the planets of the solar system, as they orbit around the sun, move from Earth’s perspective along a path Imaginary line known as Ecliptic. It is defined as the projection onto the celestial vault of the imaginary plane on which the Earth’s orbit around the Sun lies.

Not all the planets of the solar system orbit in exactly the same plane: each is on its own orbital plane, even if the different orbital planes have small mutual inclinations. For example, the orbital plane of Mercury forms an angle of with those of Earth, while those of Uranus only 0.8° With the floor. The orbital planes of other planets are also tilted by only a few degrees compared to Earth’s orbits.

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An artistic representation of a protoplanetary disk around a young star from which a new generation of planets is born. Credits: ISO/L. Calada

The slight difference in orbital levels is due to… Formation mechanism to our solar system. on 5 billion years agoWhen the Sun was about to be born, a disk developed around it Protoplanet From the gas and dust from which every planet in the solar system was born. The orbital planes of different planets originate from the same protoplanetary disk, and differ slightly from each other.