AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thursday night at sunset is your last chance to see every planet (plus the moon) in the night sky for the next couple of years. Nearly every planet, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, can be seen tonight at sunset with the naked eye. Neptune and Uranus will be viewable with a telescope.
The best time to view the planetary alignment will be at 6:52 p.m. in Austin. After that, Mercury and Venus will begin to move from sight. Mars will be out the longest, staying out until 5:29 a.m., according to timeanddate.com.
To see the alignment, look southwest to see Mercury and Venus. The planets will arc across the sky, with Mars ending the chain in the East. This image illustrates the alignment.
The moon will also pass by Jupiter tonight. Finding the largest planet in our solar system will be easy. Look for the moon, then look for a bright star to its right. That will be Jupiter.
The eight planets will be just 1.5 degrees apart at 3 p.m. today.
A similar rare alignment occurred this past June. At that time, the planets appeared to be in a straight line, although that wasn’t the case.
On Jan. 1, Mercury will be below the horizon and will be extremely difficult to see, according to TimeAndDate.com.
Is the weather good for stargazing?
Sadly, Central Texans will have to travel a bit to see the alignment. The forecast for tonight includes scattered showers and clouds. Storms are expected east of I-35, while clouds are a little thinner in the west. Heading that direction (and away from the city lights) may offer you the best chance to see the night sky.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to travel as far west as the panhandle to get a perfectly clear sky. If you have any relatives in the area, give them a heads up.