Astro Bob: Wait a minute now – EIGHT planets in a row?  – Duluth Newsstand

Astro Bob: Wait a minute now – EIGHT planets in a row? – Duluth Newsstand

Did you know that there are three other members of the solar system that lurk within the range of dawn light planets? Uranus, Neptune and Vesta, the brightest asteroid, are also part of this graceful arc. You will only need a little optical aid to spot them. Normally a pair of 7×50 or 10×50 binoculars held steady would show all three, but dawn light will be a limiting factor.

Vesta Neptune Uranus

Vesta, left, the brightest major asteroid and the fourth discovered, with Neptune, center, and Uranus “hiding” in the line of planets. You will need binoculars or a small telescope to see them.
Contributed / NASA, JPL-Caltech

Vesta will shine at magnitude 6.7 (easy in binoculars) and Neptune at 7.9 (more difficult but doable). Both are located between Jupiter and Saturn. To make sure you see them, try to go out a bit earlier, around two o’clock before sunrise when the sky is still dark. If you wait until dawn is underway, a small telescope will be needed.

Neptune Vesta Locator

This map gives you a better idea of ​​the location of Vesta and Neptune. Use it in conjunction with the more detailed map, below, to find them in binoculars or a telescope.
Contributed / Stellarium with author’s additions

Uranus is a special case. It is located between Mars and Venus and quite bright at magnitude 5.8 but too low above the predawn horizon for a good view. I suggest you wait about an hour and a half before sunrise, when the planet climbs to about 10 degrees. Twilight will still be low at this time, which makes me quite confident that you will see the distant planet in binoculars. Otherwise, a small telescope will catch him and the others.

Uranus wide locator

Uranus sits about 6 degrees east, to the left, of the waning moon not far from Venus on the morning of June 24. Dawn is just beginning in this simulation.
Contribution / Stellarium

The five bright planets have a special appeal, not only because they are easy to see, but also grouped in ascending order of distance from the sun. Mercury, the innermost planet, shines low in the east, followed by Venus, the moon (a proxy for Earth), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Like cosmic tiki lamps, they festoon the sky from northeast to south.

Vesta detailed map

This more detailed map will help you find and track Vesta until July 5. The stars are shown at magnitude 7.5, a bit fainter than the asteroid.
Contribution / Stellarium with additions by Bob King

Uranus, Neptune, and Vesta are clearly broken down in terms of distance, but hey, you can’t have it all. Also, how often can you see all eight planets – and a representative of the main asteroid belt – in one shot? I plan to get to my viewing location early to spot Vesta, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in darker skies, then wait to see the others rise. I have a pair of 10×50 binoculars ready to use and a small refractor telescope as a backup.

Detailed map of Neptune

Neptune will be nearly stationary in the sky until July 5, so it won’t get away from you! It shines near a star a little brighter than the planet itself. Stars are plotted at magnitude 8.5 and Jupiter’s position is shown for June 20.
Contribution / Stellarium with additions by Bob King

Again, the most important thing is to find the right location. You will need a clear view to the east as close to the horizon as possible to see Venus and Mercury. Venus is very bright, but Mercury will be immersed in the twilight glow. In some places, haze can also be a problem. All other naked-eye planets are higher and more forgiving. If you miss a morning, no worries. The planets will be out in early July.

Detailed map of Uranus

Uranus shines from Aries Aries just above Cetus’ head at a magnitude of 5.8. It moves slowly and will be easy to follow. Stars plotted at magnitude 6.5.
Contribution / Stellarium with additions by Bob King

Take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with the interplanetary neighborhood. The range beautifully illustrates how flat the solar system is. If this were not the case, the planets would be threaded willy-nilly in the sky. But no. They are neatly arranged in a line because the Earth is also in the same flat plane.

Solar system

The planets and many asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter orbit the Sun in approximately the same flat plane. The programming of the planet Dawn illustrates this in a dramatic way.
Contribution / NASA

The solar system is like a huge thin crust pizza. As we look outward across its flat expanse both ahead and behind us, the planets appear to circle the sky on a single, narrow “highway” called the ecliptic, which defines the plane of the solar system. For now and for joy, they even lined up in the correct order, which we won’t see again until March 2041.

“Astro” Bob King is a freelance writer for the Duluth News Tribune.

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