How to see five planets aligned in the night sky this week

Tonight is the best time to catch Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus hanging out together.

Tony Rowell via Getty Images

If you want to catch a (somewhat) rare planetary alignment in the night sky, find a clear area without much light pollution and set your gaze to the west right after sunset this evening. There, you’ll see five of our neighbors — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus — lined up in an orderly fashion.

The alignment will be visible at the same time this entire week, but this evening should provide the best view from the US. The planets will range from the horizon line to around halfway up the sky. However, you won’t want to wait long because the row of planets will only be visible for about half an hour after sunset.

You won’t necessarily need binoculars to spot the planets, but they may make your job easier — ditto for augmented reality stargazing apps like Night Sky (iOS) or Sky Map (Android). NASA astronomer Bill Cooke told the Associated Press this week that Jupiter, Venus and Mars will be the brightest and easiest to spot. He added that the alignment happens “when the planets’ orbits line them up on one side of the sun from Earth’s perspective.”

Although this cosmic convergence is a somewhat rare occurrence, it just happened only last summer. In addition, if you miss this week’s show, you’ll get another chance in June (albeit with a slightly different breakdown). Be sure to scout a dark spot without tall trees or buildings nearby for the best view.