Five of our closest neighbouring planets are aligning in the sky this June, creating a rare spectacle which will be visible to the naked eye for the whole month.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and perhaps even Uranus will appear in order in the dawn sky for the first time in 18 years, in what is known as a conjunction.
In France, the planets will be particularly visible between June 18 and 27, and on June 24 and 25, the moon will help to make Uranus more easily observable as a tiny green dot on the horizon.
During this week, the moon will sit between Venus and Mars in the planet order.
Mercury will appear closest to the horizon with Saturn the highest planet in the sky.
Planet-gazing will be easiest from 30 minutes before sunrise, in a place with a view of the eastern or southeastern horizon. It is best to look for a very dark sky but the planets should still be noticeable from urban areas.
If the sky is clear, the planets should shine brighter than surrounding stars and be visible to the naked eye, although Mercury is slightly more difficult to see because it is so close to the sun.
Venus and Jupiter will appear most clearly, as they shine the brightest, and Mercury should grow more defined later in June, as it moves away from the sun.
As the month wears on, the planets will grow further apart in the sky, which will make it more difficult to photograph them all at the same time.
“Planets are often getting closer to each other and further away from each other, but this is just a particularly fun order. It’s just a coincidence,” NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller told The Washington Post.
It is fairly common that some planets present themselves close together in the night sky, but having five planets align at one time is something that only occurs every 20 years or so. The next such conjunction will happen in 2040.