Photo: etc. Photography (Shutterstock)
It is easy enough to see the moon, but it can be much more difficult to figure out which of the points in the night sky are the planets. You see a particularly bright object and wonder whether it is a planet, a particularly shining star, or perhaps an airplane. Well, over the next three days, identifying the planets will be a lot easier than usual as the moon will be aligned with Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn just before sunrise. Here’s what to know.
As you can see how the moon aligns with three planets
This all goes down (up?) At dawn on March 8th, 9th and 10th EarthSky. Just look for the illuminated side of the waning crescent and it will point you straight to the row of planets. Saturn will be on top, Jupiter in the middle (and the brightest of the three) and Mercury on the bottom. And while it may be possible to see the planets without any equipment, use binoculars for a better view.
You can find more information here courtesy of EarthSky:
Jupiter, the most brilliant morning planet, outshines Saturn by 12 times and Mercury by 7 times. Although Mercury is a touch brighter than Saturn, Saturn will likely be the easiest to spot of these two worlds as Saturn ascends first, followed by Jupiter and then Mercury. Mercury is buried deepest in the dawn glow, but try aiming binoculars at Jupiter to look at Mercury below Jupiter.
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This is one of those situations where you need to look up the time of sunrise in your area and then get up and go outside beforehand to make sure you have a chance to see the moon and planets. (You can then go back to bed.)
With this tool from the Peasant almanacEarthSky calculated the approximate rise time for Mercury – the last of the three planets to ascend – at different latitudes (assuming a flat horizon):
40 degrees north latitude: Mercury rises about 1 hour (60 minutes) before the sun
Equator (0 degrees latitude): Mercury rises about 1 2/3 hours (100 minutes) before the sun
35 degrees south latitude: Mercury rises about 2 1/5 hours (132 minutes) before the sun
So wrap up, grab your binoculars, and look outside for a look at this solid lineup.