That’s right. Not one, not two but five planets could be visible in the UK skies this month in a rare celestial event. On June 17, the planets of Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Uranus, and Mercury are expected to appear within a 93-degree sky sector as part of a unique planetary parade.
While it’s not unusual to see two or three planets aligned, to see five is more uncommon, however the celestial event of a different selection of planets occurred back in March as well as in 2022, 2020 and 2016.
Which planets will be visible?
According to the astronomy app Star Walk, from as early as the middle of the night on June 16 to June 17 Saturn (magnitude 0.9) will be the first planet to rise and you can look for it in the constellation Aquarius. Neptune (magnitude 7.9) will be about 10° lower in the neighboring constellation Pisces, however the planet won’t be seen with the naked eye – to spot it, you will need at least a pair of binoculars.
The next planet to rise will be Jupiter (magnitude -2.2) in the constellation Aries, which you will easily be able to spot with the naked eye. Further up and also in the constellation Aries, Uranus (magnitude 5.8) will appear next. It will be about 7° lower than Jupiter, but you will need at least a pair of binoculars to see the planet.
The last planet to rise on June 17 will be Mercury (magnitude -0.9). It will be low on the horizon in the constellation Taurus and you can spot the planet about an hour before sunrise, which may mean an early start to your Saturday.
To easily identify the planets this month, Star Walk recommends using the app Sky Tonight, which can be pointed at the night sky to give a live display of what is going on. However, spotting these five visible planets also relies on the skies being clear and a nearly flat western horizon free of obstructions such as trees or buildings, in order to not miss out on seeing Jupiter and Mercury in the line-up, as these will appear very low in the west after sunset.
Is this the only chance to see such a sight?
Skywatchers don’t need to worry if they miss out on the spectacle, as Star Walk said another planetary alignment will take place this year. Just over a month later (July 22) a mini evening alignment of Mars, Venus, and Mercury will happen.
Even more planetary alignments will happen next year with the first taking place on April 20, 2024. Plus, there are even more highly-anticipated planetary alignments to come in the future, although most of them won’t happen anytime soon (2040- what?), so don’t hold your breath.