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Rare conjunction of 5 planets to be visible in PH skies Jan. 22 to Mar. 3

/ 09:15 PM January 19, 2016

MANILA, Philippines — A “very rare” celestial treat awaits those who will look up in the sky before dawn, as five planets will be lined up in the sky starting on Friday (Jan. 22).

The planets Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Saturn have been visible above the east southeastern horizon since January 1.

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But Mercury would soon join them for a very rare planetary conjunction that last occurred 11 years ago, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

In the Philippines, the five planets will appear in an uneven line stretched across the east southeastern horizon fromJanuary 22 to March 3, according to PAGASA astronomer Jose “Pepe” Mendoza.

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The celestial parade would be best seen under dark and clear sky conditions about an hour before sunrise, when all the five planets would have already risen, Mendoza said.

By March, Mercury will no longer be seen in the sky although Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus will appear together longer, according to Mendoza.

“Starting January 1, a conjunction of four planets (Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Saturn) will be observed above the east southeastern horizon. The planets will be good astronomical targets for astrophotography and telescoping sessions during the month,” PAGASA said in its advisory.

“Mercury joins the group of planets during the middle of the month making it at a very rare and spectacular display of planetary conjunctions since 2005,” it added.

Mario Raymundo, chief of PAGASA’s astronomical observation unit, said it was technically not correct to call the event a planetary alignment, but a conjunction of planets.

Planets have appeared in the sky two or three or four at a time every now and then, he said.

“From the point of view of Earth, the planets appear aligned. This is a conjunction of planets where the planets appear together in one quadrant of the sky,” Raymundo said.

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While astrologers interpret the planetary position and astronomy and astrophotography enthusiasts savor the treat of observing five planets at the same time, astronomers insist the phenomenon’s significance is limited to the skies.

“Enjoy the celestial parade. But it has no effect whatsoever” on Earth, Raymundo said.

Raymundo said the planets could be seen best away from city lights, preferably on a beach with an unobstructed horizon under clear, dark skies.

“Looking at the eastern sky, they appear aligned,” he said.

Jupiter will rise first in the evening sky and Mars will rise a couple of hours after midnight, followed by Saturn then Venus a few hours before sunrise, according to Raymundo.

Mercury will rise minutes before sunrise.

The planets can be seen by the naked eye but they are best viewed through a telescope.

Another “grand conjunction” of planets will occur 24 years from now, on September 10, 2040, when the five planets will appear close together in the sky, according to Mendoza.

Unfortunately, he said, it has been calculated to occur during daytime in the Philippines.  SFM

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TAGS: astronomers, Astronomy, astrophotography, celestial treat, conjunction of planets, Global Nation, Jose "Pepe" Mendoza, Jupiter, Mario Raymundo, Mars, Mercury, night sky, Pagasa, PAGASA astronomers, PAGASA astronomical observation unit, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, planetary alignment, planetary conjunction, Saturn, Science, sky, sky gazing, Space, space exploration, stargazing, Venus
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