Planetary Alignment 2023: What Planets Are Visible Tonight?
Planetary alignments are beautiful celestial events that you can observe without special equipment. Here you’ll learn how to observe the alignments, find the dates of the most spectacular ones, and gain a thorough understanding of these celestial events.
- What planets are visible during the next alignment of planets?
- What is a planetary alignment?
- The upcoming planetary alignments
- Bottom line
Planetary alignment is an astronomical term used to describe the event when several planets gather closely on one side of the Sun at the same time.
Planetary parade is a colloquial term that means, in the broadest sense, that several planets are present in the sky in one night.
Now let's find out when the planets will align next time. If you want to learn more about how planetary alignments work – go straight to the “What is a planetary alignment” chapter.
What planets are visible during the next alignment of planets?
The next planetary alignment takes place on January 27, 2024. Three bright planets – Venus, Mars, and Mercury – will align in the morning sky, all visible to the naked eye in the constellation Sagittarius.
Venus (mag -3.9) will be the first planet to appear about an hour before the local sunrise. It will be the brightest object in the sky before the Sun rises.
Mercury and Mars will rise next. You can distinguish Mars (mag 1.3) by its reddish tint. Mercury (mag -0.2) can be found nearby. On the same day, Mars will have a close approach to Mercury at a mere 14.6 arcminutes of each other.
To make sure you located the planets correctly, download Sky Tonight, a free stargazing app that makes it easy to identify any celestial object in the sky. To find out the name of an object above you, just launch the app and point your device at the sky – you will see the names of the planets and be able to learn more about each one.
Note that January 27, 2024 is only a general date when the alignment will be well-seen for most locations around the world. The ideal date to view the alignment may vary depending on your location. Here is a list of different locations around the world and the dates when the planets will be seen in the smallest sector of the sky for them during this alignment:
- Mexico: January 26, 5-degree sky sector.
- Abu Dhabi: January 27, 6-degree sky sector;
- Athens: January 27, 9-degree sky sector;
- Hong Kong: January 27, 6-degree sky sector;
- London: January 27, 11-degree sky sector;
- New York: January 27, 9-degree sky sector;
- Tokyo: January 28, 9-degree sky sector;
- Sydney: January 29, 7-degree sky sector;
- São Paulo: February 20, 3-degree sky sector.
To see how the planets will look from where you live on a given date, launch the Sky Tonight app, select the desired date and time in the Time Machine at the top of the screen, and look at the sky map – you will see the position of the celestial objects for your location.
In addition, the alignment is not limited to a single day but may extend for several days before and after that date. So if you missed January 27, don’t worry and try to spot planets on the other day around the date!
Now we’ll give you a few tips on how to observe the upcoming alignment.
How to see the alignment of planets 2023?
First, choose the right time. To observe this alignment, you should find out the sunrise time for your location and start your observations at least an hour before it. You can find out the sunrise time for your location with Sky Tonight. To do it, launch the Sky Tonight app and go to the Visible Tonight tab (the telescope icon on the main screen). The second time in the Stargazing Index section is the sunrise time for your location on a given date.
Then, make sure you’re looking at the planets and not the stars. It’s not as obvious as it seems! It may be easy to distinguish Venus because it will be the brightest celestial object after the Moon in the sky. The other planets, however, are a little fainter. One of the differences is that the planets, unlike the stars, don’t twinkle. And if you observe the night sky throughout the year, you’ll notice that the planets “visit” different constellations while the stars stay in “fixed” positions relative to each other.
The easiest way to check if you see a planet or a star is by using the free Sky Tonight app:
Step 1: Open Sky Tonight and point your device at the sky or tap the big blue button. The app will display a live representation of the sky above you and track your movements.
Step 2: Direct your device toward the part of the sky where the object you wish to identify is located. You can lower the magnitude so that only naked-eye objects are left on the screen. To do this, tap the bottom panel and drag the top slider toward the eye icon.
Step 3: Tap on the object to see its name on the screen, then you can tap the name to learn more about it.
To see the alignment in all its beauty, find a place with a dark sky without light pollution and with a clear view of the horizon (without obstacles such as trees or tall buildings).
The short guide above will help you spot the aligned planets. To plan your observations, check out the next planetary alignments listed below in this article. But first, let’s dive into the theory if you’re wondering what it actually means when planets align.
What is a planetary alignment?
Here are two common definitions of a planetary alignment:
- An astronomical event when planets gather closely on one side of the Sun at the same time, as seen from above the Solar System.
Some people think the Solar System planets can form a straight line as viewed from the Sun. However, the planets cannot achieve full alignment in three dimensions. Even a looser grouping in one quadrant (a 90-degree sector) is extremely rare: all planets gather in one quadrant only 7 times in the current millennium.
- A visual phenomenon when the planets appear close together in a small sky sector, as seen from the Earth.
When the Earth is one of the planets gathered on one side of the Sun, it appears to the observer that several planets are aligned in the sky. The smaller the sector in which the planets are seen, the more spectacular the alignment.
Don’t forget that alignments from the first definition aren’t always as striking as seen from the Earth. Even when all the planets gather within one quadrant in space, they may be scattered across the sky’s dome. Moreover, when the inner planets are close to the Earth-Sun line, we won't see them in the night sky.
Look at our infographic to understand how planetary alignments work. You’ll learn how to spot them and what to expect from the upcoming “planet parade.”
Do the planets form a line in the sky during the planetary alignment?
The planets do form a line, but it's not perfectly straight. All the planets orbit the Sun in almost the same plane. As a result, when viewing from Earth, the other planets appear to move along the ecliptic, the Sun’s yearly path across the sky. You can check it yourself with the stargazing app Sky Tonight:
- Launch the app and find the yellow dotted line that contains the Sun and goes through the entire celestial sphere – this is the ecliptic.
- Move along this line, and you’ll eventually find all the planets on the sides of it. Or you can type the name of the desired planet in the search field and tap the target button near its name. The app will show the planet’s current location, and it will be near the ecliptic at any date and at any time.
As you move along the ecliptic in the app, you may notice that it is an arc from horizon to horizon. However, in a small part of the sky, the ecliptic looks like a straight line. You can see this by looking at the segment of the ecliptic that fits on your screen. That's why when the planets come closer together in one sky sector during an alignment, it looks like they’re forming an almost straight line in the sky.
Is a planet alignment and a planet parade the same thing?
“Planetary parade” is not an official astronomical term, so it is used more loosely than the term “planetary alignment.” Planetary alignments are colloquially called planetary parades. Additionally, when multiple planets are visible together in one night, it can also be called a planetary parade. In astrology, a planetary parade occurs when several planets are located in the same zodiac constellation.
Types of planetary alignments
The following types of planetary alignments are distinguished according to the number of participating planets:
- Mini planetary alignment – 3 planets.
- Small planetary alignment – 4 planets.
- Large planetary alignment – 5 or 6 planets.
- Great (full) planetary alignment – all Solar System planets (+ Pluto sometimes).
When two planets are close in the sky, what is it called?
When two planets meet in the sky, it's not a planetary alignment yet. It may be the closest approach or conjunction. In our dedicated article, you’ll find details about the upcoming planetary conjunctions.
The upcoming planetary alignments
Plan your planetary observations for the next few years and beyond! And don’t miss the next planetary alignment – described in detail at the beginning of the article and regularly updated.
Not all parts of the world have the same view of planetary alignments. Due to the position of the ecliptic on the celestial sphere, certain planets may not be visible from where you live. Therefore, please keep in mind that the following list of planetary alignments is a general overview. The listed dates indicate when the planets can be clearly seen from most locations worldwide. If you miss this precise date, don't worry - the alignment is typically visible for a few days before and after the given date.
The next planetary alignments take place in 2024:
- January 27: a mini morning alignment of Venus, Mars, and Mercury.
- April 4: a small morning alignment of Venus, Neptune, Saturn, Mars.
- April 20: a large morning alignment of Venus, Mercury, Neptune, Mars, and Saturn.
- June 7: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn.
- August 28: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn.
To verify if a specific planetary alignment is entirely observable from your location, download the Sky Tonight app. Select the desired date using the app’s time machine at the top of the screen, and explore the view of the sky for your precise location.
When will 5 to 7 planets align in the sky?
Here is the list of the next planetary alignments that feature 5 to 7 planets:
- April 20, 2024: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Neptune.
- June 7, 2024: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
- August 28, 2024: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
- January 18, 2025: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn.
- February 28, 2025: a full evening alignment of Saturn, Mercury, Neptune, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, and Mars. This is the next time 7 planets will be visible in the sky at once!
- August 29, 2025: a large morning alignment of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn.
The most anticipated planetary alignments
Here are some planetary alignments discussed in the media. They are noteworthy because they feature many planets that are grouped closely together. However, most of them won’t happen anytime soon, so don't hold your breath.
On September 8, 2040, five naked-eye planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) will align in the sky. The crescent Moon will also be visible, positioned between Venus and Saturn. The best time for observations will be around 19:30 local time.
On March 15, 2080, six planets – Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Uranus – will be visible in the morning sky. This alignment is especially remarkable because it will feature the “great conjunction” of Saturn and Jupiter, which will be only six arcminutes apart.
On May 19, 2161, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun. The planetary alignment will be seen just before dawn.
On November 7, 2176, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun. The planetary alignment will be seen in the Earth’s sky just after sunset.
On May 6, 2492, all Solar System planets, including the Earth, will gather on one side of the Sun. In the Earth’s sky, the planetary alignment will be seen just after sunset.
When is the next planet parade?
The next planet parade is on January 27, 2024, when three planets – Venus, Mars, and Mercury – will align in the sky.
When was the last time all the planets aligned?
Last time, all 8 planets aligned on December 28, 2022. The planets gathered within a 153-degree sky sector; the alignment was visible right after sunset.
What is it called when all the planets align?
When all Solar System planets align, it’s called a “great” or “full” planetary alignment. However, the planets can’t be in a straight line in space, so during the alignment, they just gather closely on one side of the Sun.
How to see the next alignment of planets?
Planetary alignments are quite easy to observe, with just a few essential tips to keep in mind:
- The alignments featuring Mercury can be viewed just after sunset or before dawn, depending on the date.
- Use a pair of binoculars when trying to spot Uranus and Neptune.
- For the inner planets, the best viewing conditions occur near their greatest elongations, and for the outer planets – around their oppositions.
Use the app Sky Tonight to find all the planets in the sky above you and learn their visibility conditions.
When will all the planets align?
The planets of our Solar System never form a perfectly straight line in space, because their orbits aren't on the same plane. But sometimes, the planets gather closely on one side of the Sun and appear together in the sky. At the next full alignment on February 28, 2025, the seven planets – Saturn, Mercury, Neptune, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, and Mars – will be observable in the sky simultaneously.
What happens when the planets align?
Some media sources falsely claim that planetary alignments cause tsunamis, earthquakes, and other global disasters. This nonsense has been repeatedly debunked. In reality, alignments do not affect gravity or human life, but they are cool stargazing events.
Planetary alignment is a term used in astronomy to describe the event when several planets gather in a small sky area. This event may also be colloquially called a “planetary parade.” The next alignment of the three planets is on January 27, 2024. The planets will be visible just before sunrise. Download a free stargazing app Sky Tonight to help you spot them all!