The five planets visible to the naked eye will align in the Southern Hemisphere skies for the first time since 2005.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible in the hour before sunrise between now and 20 February, 2016. Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been visible together for the past few weeks, but on 20 January they were joined by “little” Mercury.
Museum Victoria astronomer Dr Tanya Hill told Australia’s ABC, “At first it [Mercury] will appear quite low to the eastern horizon and of all the planets it is also the faintest, so it will be hard to see to begin with. However, Mercury will continue to rise higher each morning and by early February it will sit just below bright Venus.”
The order the planets appear in to those of us on Earth will not reflect their order from the sun. Mercury will appear first when starting from the eastern horizon; to its left will be Venus, then Saturn, then red-planet Mars and, finally, massive Jupiter.
According to Dr Alan Duffy from Swinburne University, all five planets can be seen together from 5.30am and 5.40am (AEDT) on 20 January, with the timeframe expanding each morning until 20 February, when they should be visible for close to a full hour between 5am and 6am.
To increase your chances of seeing this celestial phenomenon, Dr Duffy recommends finding a clear horizon and a dark sky away from the cities.
The five planets will again be visible together in August 2016, then will not line up again until October 2018, owing to the different times they take to orbit the sun.