For fans of Uranus, this weekend offers a special treat.
It’s an ultra-rare five planet alignment starring Uranus, Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, and Neptune.
Astronomers say five planet alignments are a rarity even though one was visible just last March. The next one won’t happen for 18 years so this weekend is a great opportunity to catch one.
The best time to see the alignment is on Saturday morning but Sunday’s show will be almost as good.
Get Up Early
Amateur astronomer and noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich told Cowboy State Daily the best time to start watching is about one hour before sunrise.
That means get out of bed around 4:30 or so.
“Even if you’ve been pounding tequila the night before, as I will likely do, it’s a fantastic celestial event so it’s worth it to get up,” he said.
“Dress warmly as it’s going to be cold,” he added, noting that in Pinedale, where he lives, the temperatures will be in the low 30s.
Ulrich said to look to the east. The brightest object near the horizon is Jupiter.
“You can’t miss it,” he said. “It will be glorious -- like a miniature, shimmering disco ball. I will likely put on some Donna Summer."
To its right will be Saturn. Not as bright as Jupiter, but still easy to spot.
To the left of Jupiter is Mercury. Dimmer than Saturn but still easy to see.
Next up, the star of the show: Uranus. Ulrich said it’s a good idea to grab a pair of binoculars.
“I’m not going to say it’s impossible to see Uranus with the naked eye,” he said. “If you don’t have any light pollution like where I’ll be a few miles outside of Pinedale, great. Otherwise, you’ll want some kind of magnification.”
Uranus, he said, will be wedged between Jupiter and Mercury.
As for Neptune, it’s another hard one to see without binoculars or a telescope, but it’s possible. It can be viewed halfway between Jupiter and Saturn.
If you aren’t sure what you’re seeing, just remember that planets don’t twinkle.
“If it’s just a steady light, chances are you’re seeing a planet,” Ulrich said.
“Of course, it could be a UFO and you’re about to get abducted, which would be awesome,” he added.
Jimmy Orr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.