Planet Parade Syzygy

Planet Parade Syzygy

Just before sunrise Monday morning, June 3, 2024, six planets and an asteroid will form a “planet parade.” That means they will appear in a straight line as viewed from Earth. The planets involved are Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus, an asteroid, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn, going from the horizon up.  Understand that is how we see them from Earth because Mercury and Jupiter are nowhere near each other.

With the naked eye, you should be able to see Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, with Jupiter being the brightest. With binoculars, you might be able to see Uranus. With a telescope and knowing where to look, you will see all seven; if the sky is clear, you are away from light pollution and have a clear view of the eastern horizon. However, a crescent moon will make viewing a little more difficult. By Thursday, the Moon will be out of the way to better view the planets, but Mercury and Jupiter will have switched places. The change of position will be caused by the outer planets (Jupiter) appearing to move more slowly than the inner planets (Mercury).

The planets’ ability to appear close together in the sky shows how flat our solar system is. In other words, the planets orbit the Sun in nearly the same plane rather than in random directions. That fact allows the outer planets, especially Jupiter, to serve as comet sweepers, protecting Earth from dangerous objects coming in from beyond the solar system.

A syzygy is a true alignment of planets, which happens very rarely. This planet parade is an interesting apparent alignment, and “syzygy” is a good word to remember the next time you play Scrabble. This beautiful view of our solar system reminds us of God’s wise artistic and engineering design.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2024