Clocking in before the sun is up isn’t exactly pleasant for everyone, but some early commuters can catch a nice surprise when they drive to work this month: four planets in the eastern, predawn sky.
Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn will all appear early in the morning, said Levent Gurdemir, planetarium director for the University of Texas at Arlington.
“Four planets are getting a great view in the morning so for early commuters, that is going to be a nice thing to look at, finding out all the bright planets in the sky, because they really distinguish themselves from the stars in the background,” he said.
Even if you don’t have a ton of planetary knowledge, you can still tell which planet is which based on how they look, he said.
“Mars will be noticeably red, so it is very easy to identify,” Gurdemir continued. “Venus is the brightest of those four planets and Saturn will be on the top and Jupiter will be on the bottom of the order.”
Stargazers can feast their eyes on the planets before the sunrise washes them away, Gurdemir said. Early birds can see them from 6 a.m. to 6:35 a.m. or so.
Over the past two decades, this occurrence has unfolded a few times so it isn’t exactly a rare event, he added. It’s what’s known as a “conjunction” of planets, meaning that two or more planets appear to sit close to one another as viewed from Earth.
NASA is also taking note of the occurrence, saying that the brightest of the four planets
, Jupiter and Venus, will head toward an “ultra-close conjunction” this coming Saturday.
“If you recall the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the end of 2020, these conjunctions are not quite as close as that, but still really impressive and they'll make for thrilling sights in the morning sky,” NASA wrote on its website.
In addition, Gurdemir noted that a meteor shower peaked late last week, but that in general, the Dallas-Fort Worth area isn’t a great location for celestial events.
"The sky is too bright," he said. "We have too many lights."
The moonlight has also worked against a crystal-clear meteor shower viewing.
Folks in the Northern Hemisphere can catch the four planets appearing in a diagonal line
, according to USA Today
. The order will go Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn, from lower left to upper right.
The moon will even get in on the fun toward the end of the month, showing up below each planet from Monday through Wednesday. Sounds like a planetary party.