There is that time of the year when skywatchers can look forward to seeing an incredible celestial sight. That time has come!
For a short period before dawn on July 19, Sunday, sharp-eyed skywatchers with a clear view of the east-northeastern horizon might spot the slender fraction of the old moon – a crescent moon joining Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the same sky at one time.
And good news, observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment! However, because of some of these planets’ positions, you might need binoculars to spot them faster.
So, before daybreak on July 19, 2020, make sure to look east!
Astronomy educator Dr. Jeffrey Hunt advises to start the search after about 4:45 a.m. local time as the five planets and crescent moon will simultaneously be visible to the naked eye 45 minutes before sunrise. He also suggests to “find a spot with clear horizons in the east-northeast and the southwest,” as the five planets and the moon will be curved across the morning sky.
As it is out from dusk until dawn, Jupiter can already be spot two hours before sunrise, and thus it sits low in the western half of the sky before daybreak. The ringed planet Saturn will be just a short hop away all night long, above Jupiter and to the right. Venus, the brightest of the five, shines in the east. The red planet, Mars, is much higher up, roughly midway between Venus and Jupiter. And if you watch carefully, you might spot a 5th planet, Mercury, to the moon’s right.
If you are looking carefully, you might even continue to see them after sunrise.