Between now and February 20th you can see the five brightest planets in our solar system at the same time. It’s the first time this has happened since 2005. Point Park University professor and astrophysicist Brendan Mullan stopped by our studio to discuss happenings in outer space.
When asked why we’re seeing Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter at the same time Mullan said, “They’re all in the same part of the solar system at the same time.” This is such a rare occurrence, because of the time it takes for the planets to revolve around the sun. It won't happen again until 2040.
In the meantime, Mullan said the best way to view the planets would be to get as far away from city lights as possible. In addition, Mullan said, “Try to find a place that’s not so hilly, because you’re going to need a clear view from the southeast to southwest in order to see them all at once.”
It helps to be an early bird if you’re interested in viewing this planetary lineup. “You gotta wake up stupid early before the sun rises,” said Mullan. That's because Venus and Mercury tend to stick close to the sun, so you need to catch them right before the sun rises.
Mullan also suggested downloading the Star Walk app, in order for those viewing the heavens with a naked eye to help distinguish the planets from stars. The alignment of the five brightest planets will be taking place until Feb. 20.
The lineup of the planets is not the biggest news from outer space. Lurking in the far-off darkness of our solar system is a celestial body astronomers are calling Planet 9.
At present we know a few basic facts about the planet.
“It’s 200 times further from the sun than our Earth is,” said Mullan.
Planet 9 is also five to 15 times the mass of the Earth, roughly the size of Uranus and Neptune.
“That’s a substantial planet,” Mullan said.
Asked when we will be able to see visual evidence of Planet 9, Mullan said, “Any reasonable research-grade telescope can find it. We just need to know where to look.”
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