How to Watch the Rare Alignment of Our Moon, Jupiter, and a Surprise Guest

Flickr / moonjazz

Tens of people who self-identify as “early risers” will get to experience a rare treat early Thursday morning — three planets (and Pluto) aligning with the moon.

Just before dawn on March 8, stargazers can look south and see a few of our solar neighbors. AccuWeather reports that from east to west, viewers will be able to see Jupiter, the moon, Mars, and Saturn, seemingly in a row. Pluto will be there too, but alas, it’ll be too faint to see with the naked eye. Fans of the dwarf planet will need a telescope in order to catch it.

The best part is, this alignment will be visible for a few weeks. So even if you oversleep on Thursday, you’ll still have a handful of other opportunities to see the planets in concert.

“Of the planets, Jupiter rises the earliest, around midnight [local time], followed by Mars at 2 a.m. and Saturn at 3 a.m.,” AccuWeather’s Dave Samuhel says.

“Planetary alignment” comes with a lot of misconceptions since the name isn’t entirely accurate. We get to observe planets “in a line” sometimes due to the various speeds at which Earth and other planets orbit the sun, but these events are entirely based on the vantage point of the viewer. It’s not like planets are actually in a perfect line, but rather, we just observe them in the same area of the sky. Therefore, it’s impossible to see all eight planets in exact alignment at the same time.

It’s worth noting that these events don’t cause earthquakes, as the common myth suggests. You don’t have to worry about any sort of apocalyptic doom.

Three planets over La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Flickr / European Southern Observatory

According to NASA, stargazers will be able to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the crescent moon line up on September 8, 2040. So to all those seriously committed, make sure you pencil that into your schedule. I’ll send you a G-cal invite if you want.

Until then, happy planet hunting!