A rare astronomical event is coming next month—on June 3, to be exact. There will be a planetary alignment, which means you may actually be able to see six planets align in the sky. So if you missed the magical display of the northern lights recently, you could get another chance to witness something truly special in the night sky in just a few weeks.

We spoke to Kate Pattle, a lecturer at University College London’s Physics and Astronomy Department, to find out a little more about the planetary alignment, and our best chances of seeing Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the sky together.

What is a planetary alignment?

“A planetary alignment is an astronomical event that happens when, by coincidence, the orbits of several of the planets of the solar system bring them to roughly the same side of the sun at the same time,” says Pattle. “This means that they appear in a line on the sky, when we view them from Earth. In this case, the planets Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn will form a line across the sky, in that order.”

Pattle adds that, in this instance, the term planetary alignment refers to the planets visibly lining up in the sky—also known as a planetary parade—but they won’t be in actual orbital alignment.

“It’s important to emphasize that the planets aren’t forming a straight line in space—that’s a much rarer astronomical event called a syzygy,” she says. “However, because all the planets, including the Earth, orbit around the sun in roughly the same orientation (moving in which we call the plane of the Ecliptic), when they’re on the same side of the sun as each other, they appear to form a line in the sky when we view them from Earth.”

Pattle also emphasizes that although the planets’ orbits have brought them to the same side of the sun as each other, they aren’t actually close to each in space. “They’re still millions of miles apart,” she says.

When do the planets align?

The planets are due to line up in the sky in the early morning hours of Monday, June 3, 2024.

How common is a planetary alignment?

Visual planetary alignments, or planetary parades, are quite common, particularly if you’re talking about two, three, or even four planets lining up in the sky. However, it’s less common to see five or more planets aligning.

These are the upcoming planetary parades of five or more planets:

  • June 3, 2024
  • August 28, 2024
  • January 18, 2025
  • February 28, 2025
  • August 29, 2025

“The February 2025 alignment will be a particularly good one,” says Pattle, “as all seven of the other planets in our solar system—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—will form a line on the sky. (Pluto isn’t a planet, sorry!)”

How to spot the planetary alignment

“Unfortunately, it involves getting up very early in the morning,” says Pattle. “The planetary alignment will be most visible about one hour before sunrise on June 3, but will also be visible for a couple of days on either side. The planets will be visible in the east of the sky.”

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