Tonight, just as the sun sets, look to the western horizon.
If you’re lucky and the sky isn’t cloudy, you should be able to see Jupiter and Mercury, shining like stars, with your unaided eye.
A bit higher up in the sky, you’ll be able to see Venus shining bright, also without equipment. At the 10 o’clock position from Venus, you’ll be able to see — faintly, and it may require binoculars or a telescope — Uranus.
And then higher still, between the bright light of Venus and the almost-half moon, you’ll be able to see Mars, shining its usual orangish-reddish color — again, without using a telescope or binoculars.
Later, if you’re willing to wake up just before sunrise, you might be able to see Saturn peek up over the horizon, appearing like a faint star.
“To be able to catch that many planets over the course of a single evening is pretty uncommon,” said Christian Ready, a lecturer at Towson University, where he is also director of the school’s planetarium.
It won’t be until 2040, or around then, that Earth experiences another night where so many planets are visible at once, and in such an alignment.
“Honestly, that’s quick, astronomically speaking. But for us human types, this is an uncommon event,” Ready said.
As the week goes on, it will be trickier to see all the planets in one night. Wednesday night really is your best bet.
Luis Rosa, a meteorologist at the Baltimore/Washington office of the National Weather Service, said the skies should be free of clouds Wednesday around sunset. Clouds may appear overnight, though.
And before you start to worry, no — this isn’t like in the disaster movies when the planets align and gravity reverses, or anything like that. In fact, Ready said, the building you’re sitting in reading this story exerts more of a gravitational pull on you than all the other planets in the solar system combined.
The alignment is interesting, and so many planets in a line is relatively uncommon. But there’s no deeper meaning to it.
“All it means is that we live in the solar system with these other planets,” Ready said.