Five planets will align in the sky at the same time in rare celestial treat

Five planets will align cross the early morning sky on Wednesday in the first of many morning appearances over the next month.

Show starts Wednesday morning but expected to run until Feb. 20

Conjunction of Mercury and Venus, appearing above the Moon, at the Paranal Observatory in 2010. Alignments are rare but that of five planets are even more rare. (European Southern Observatory)

You'll have to wake up about an hour before sunrise — but it just might be worth it. 

Five planets will align cross the early morning sky on Wednesday in the first of many morning appearances over the next month.

The planets (not stars) of the show will be Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It's been more than a decade since all five have been visible to the naked eye all at once. 

Best viewing

Look to the southeast sky about 45 minutes before sunrise in Vancouver around 7:58 a.m. PT to catch the show. You don't even have to leave the city, but binoculars may help to enhance the spectacle — especially dimly-lit Mercury. 

Venus will be the easiest planet to spot first since it's the second brightest in the sky after the moon. Jupiter is the next brightest and Mars will have a faint red glow. Mars and Jupiter will be higher up in the sky than Venus, Mercury and Saturn. 

If you have trouble finding Mercury and Saturn, try closing one eye and passing your thumb over the bright spot in the sky. If it dims out when your thumb passes it, then it is likely a planet. But if it blinks out quickly, then it is a distance star. Stars twinkle because their light gets refracted as it passes through our atmosphere. But planets are much closer so they appear steady to the eye.  

Viewing forecast

Skies may clear out for parts of Metro Vancouver just before the early morning hours but will likely stay cloudy in the Fraser Valley. 

The forecast is pretty grey leading to the weekend with a big rain-maker on tap for Wednesday night into Thursday. But not to worry — our next chance at morning clear skies may come this Sunday morning. 

The show is expected to run from Jan. 20 until Feb. 20. 

About the Author

Johanna Wagstaffe

Senior Meteorologist

Johanna Wagstaffe is a senior meteorologist for CBC, covering weather and science stories, with a background in seismology and earth science. Her weekly segment, Science Smart, answers viewers' science-related questions.

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