It’s easy enough to spot the moon, but it can be much harder to figure out which of the dots in the night sky are the planets. You see a particularly bright object and wonder, if it’s a planet, a particularly luminous star, or perhaps, a plane. Well, over the next three days, identifying the planets will be considerably simpler than usual, thanks to the fact that just before dawn, the moon will line up with Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. Here’s what to know.
How to see the moon line up with three planets
This is all going down (up?) at dawn on March 8th, 9th and 10th, according to EarthSky. Just look for the lit side of the waning crescent moon, and it’ll point you directly to the line-up of planets. Saturn will be on top, Jupiter’s in the middle (and the brightest of the three), and Mercury is on the bottom. And while it may be possible to see the planets without any type of equipment, use a pair of binoculars to get a better look.
Here’s more information, courtesy of EarthSky:
Jupiter, the most brilliant morning planet, outshines Saturn by some 12 times and Mercury by 7 times. Although Mercury is a touch brighter than Saturn, Saturn will probably be the easier of these two worlds to see, as Saturn rises first, followed by Jupiter and then Mercury. Mercury is buried most deeply in the glare of morning twilight, but try aiming binoculars at Jupiter to glance at Mercury below Jupiter.
This is one of those situations where you need to look up the time of the sunrise in your area, and then get up and head outside before that to make sure you have a chance to see the moon and planets. (You can go back to bed after that.)
Using this tool from the Farmer’s Almanac, EarthSky has calculated the approximate rising time for Mercury—the last of the three planets to rise—at various latitudes (assuming a level horizon):
40 degrees north latitude: Mercury rises about 1 hour (60 minutes) before the sun
Equator (0 degrees latitude): Mercury rises about 1 2/3 hours (100 minutes) before the sun
35 degrees south latitude: Mercury rises about 2 1/5 hours (132 minutes) before the sun
So wrap up, grab your binoculars, and head outside for a glimpse at this solid lineup.