CHICO, Calif. - All planets in our solar system will be visible around sunrise or sunset this week. A rare occurrence and a natural coincidence of the planetary orbits.
It's not uncommon to see some of the planets in the night sky, but this week we have the rare opportunity to see all of the planets in our solar system on the same day. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
All of these planets will not be above the horizon at the same time, so you can't view them all in one seating. But, if you head outside at dawn and after sunset, you'll be able to see all of the same day, this week.
Here's how to view the planets:
In the morning, you will be able to see Mercury and Venus in the dark morning sky before the sun rises. Venus will be visible before the sun rises if you look ESE, towards the horizon, very near where the sun sets. It will become visible (move above the horizon) around 4:30 am. Mercury will rise in the same spot just after 5:30 am, which is about an hour and a half before sunrise in our area.
Over the next few nights, you will be able to see Uranus and Mars in the same direction after sunset. Mars will be closer in the southeasterly direction and Uranus will be closer to the easterly direction. Note, Uranus will be very difficult, but still possible, to spot with the naked eye.
If you can spot Mars, you'll also be able to view Neptune. The only exception is Neptune is not visible to the naked eye, so binoculars or a telescope will be needed. It will be a little higher up in the sky and more to the right, with respect to Mars. It is in the south-southeasterly direction.
Jupiter and Saturn will be the real prize since they will be right next to the moon. They will be visible after sunset. If you can find the moon, which will be in the southwesterly direction, Jupiter will be just above it to the left with Saturn right above that.
The reason it is rare to see all of the planets on the same day is that sometimes planets will be behind the sun, making them impossible to see. Out of the core planets, Mercury and Venus are right next to each other with Mercury almost behind the sun from Earth's perspective. That's why it's only visible just before sunrise. Mars is in the opposite direction of the sun so it will be visible for a while.
Out of the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn are also next to each other in relative terms, but are just far enough away from behind the sun to be visible. Uranus and Neptune are in the opposite direction of the sun with respect to Earth's orbit, meaning they will also be visible for a while.
The weather locally will make it difficult for planet viewing Wednesday night with partly cloudy skies in the forecast but the rest of the week and into the weekend should be easier with less cloud cover in the forecast.
Pluto, along with other dwarf planets in our solar system will also be in the night sky.