4 Planets & the Moon Will Form a Spectacular Line in the Sky This Weekend
On the morning of Saturday, April 23, you'll be able to easily spot the alignment low in the sky.
Following the peak of April’s Lyrid meteor shower, there will be even more to see in the night sky. Fortunately, the moon won't hinder your view. In fact, the moon will make this formation even more spectacular.
While the month of June will bring a rare line of five visible planets in the morning sky, you can catch a similarly incredible spectacle as we build up to that. That's because Jupiter joined Venus, Mars, and Saturn in mid-April, creating a grouping of four planets hanging out in the morning sky. Early on the morning of Saturday, April 23, however, the moon will join the party—making it a can't-miss stargazing even this weekend.
How to see the planetary alignment on April 23
Look to the east-southeast before sunrise on April 23 to see Jupiter sitting just above the horizon. Higher in the sky and to its right, you'll spy Venus. Those are the two brightest planets in the sky. They’re joined by Mars and Saturn climbing up and to the south. The moon will shine just to the right of that formation.
If you've got a clear view of the horizon—unobstructed by buildings or trees or mountains—then you'll have no problem spotting it. Of course, you'll also need to have clear skies, so be sure to check your local forecast before you set your alarm for the pre-dawn hours. Because we're talking about planets and our own moon, you won't need a telescope or binoculars to enjoy the alignment, though you can certainly break out your equipment for closer looks at the individual planets.
To be clear, the planets aren't really in a close line and sit millions of miles apart from each other—it merely looks that way from our vantage point on Earth. Still, it’s a beautiful display. And, though it’s not really part of any formation, you’ll also find the bright stars Altair and Deneb high above the planets, as well as Antares off to the right and higher in the sky (you can see the positioning of those stars in the image from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory above).
What about the Lyrid meteor shower?
It just so happens that the first major meteor shower of spring—the Lyrid meteor shower—peaks on the night of Friday, April 22. You can head out around after midnight and spot about 10-15 meteors per hour if you're lucky enough to have clear conditions in your area. Just note that the window for seeing these meteors will likely be limited by a close-to-full moon, be sure to get out there shortly after midnight before the lunar light pollution seeps into the picture. By the time the moon is up, you likely won't see many meteors, but you'll have the gorgeous alignment to enjoy.
What if you miss Saturday morning's show? Well, they might not be lined up quite as perfectly in the days after, but those planets will still be hanging out as we move toward a close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on April 30. Then in June, you’ll see Mercury join the quartet low toward the horizon. It’ll be a tantalizing preview of what's to come.