5 planets will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye

The next few days will be one of the best times to look up to the sky.

For about a week, every morning before sunrise, you will be able to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn at the same time with your naked eye. This is the first time since 2005 that the five planets have been visible at the same time.

The spectacle is especially unique for New Yorkers, whose views of the night sky are often limited due to light pollution from the city. But Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History, said anyone in New York will be able to see the planets.

“It’s one of those rare opportunities where you are as much able to watch it as someone on a farm in upstate New York,” she said.

Her advice to New Yorkers is to view it from a rooftop because it will give you the least obstructed view.

“Going to a park isn’t always the best because the trees will obstruct your view,” she said. “Ideally, you want an unobstructed view of the eastern sky.”

The best time to see all five planets is about 45 minutes to an hour before sunrise, about 7 a.m. in New York City. Once the sun is up, the planets will not be visible.

But the alignment will begin each night between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. when Jupiter begins to rise. It will continue throughout the night as Mars, Saturn, Venus and finally Mercury rise. In New York City, the timing of Mercury’s rise will be between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Exact times for specific days can be found on The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The planets will align in the sky in a 110 degree arc, according to Sky & Telescope. That arc is known as the ecliptic, or the plane of the solar system as seen from Earth.

“The one that you’re going to have trouble seeing is Mercury,” Faherty said. Technically, the others will be visible until Feb. 20, but Mercury, the closest to the horizon, will be much harder to see after the first week of February.

Faherty recommends looking for Venus and Jupiter first, as they are the brightest in the sky.

“Once you see Venus and Jupiter, you can spot the other ones,” she said.

Irene Pease, a board member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, said New Yorkers living in Manhattan may have a good chance to see Mercury in the next few days.

“It will be rising right along the grid,” she said.  

Pease explained that it will be similar to Manhattanhenge, when the sun sets along the grid, but Mercury will appear on the east side and look like a bright star. 

If you have binoculars, they will help you see Mercury, but they won’t be necessary to see the other planets.

Faherty also recommends using apps, such as Star Walk and Sky Map to help identify the planets.

The next time the five planets will be visible at the same time will be in August.