As you head off to work and school on Jan. 20, make sure you take a moment to look up. The pre-dawn sky promises a celestial show that hasn't happened since 2005.
On Wednesday morning, just before dawn, five planets will align and be visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. To spot them, try to find an open field and a dark sky. At the very least get a clear view of the sky and hope that it's not cloudy. Then look toward the moon and follow its path toward the horizon. You should be able to see the planets, which are less twinkly than stars, shining brightly in the sky.
The planets will line up from east to west in this order: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter (Photo: EarthSky.org/Facebook)
Savvy astronomers may notice that the alignment of the planets in the sky does not follow their order from the sun, which we all of course remember thanks to the mnemonic "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas," Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and dwarf planet Pluto.(What, you don't remember that one??)
You'll be glad to hear that the planets' order from the sun hasn't changed, but the path and plane that they follow around the sun means that when we see them, Saturn kind of jumps in there after Venus and before Mars.
If you miss the five-planet show on Wednesday, don't worry, the planets will be visible for the next month, getting brighter every day before fading out again and culminating on Feb. 20.
Need help locating the planets? Try one of these awesome free apps for stargazers.