The best places to see this weekend's five-way planetary alignment

Keep your eyes on the skies, stargazers! Starting Saturday morning, five planets will be visibly aligned in a cosmic assembly that hasn't happened in more than a decade.

As you can see in the diagram above, the string of planets includes Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. The only planets in the solar system that will be missing from the lineup are Uranus and Neptune (and, perhaps, Planet Nine.) 

Tony Cook, an astronomer with the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, said Mercury's orbit is putting it into just the right spot to make this array possible. On Saturday, it will begin to move from in front of the sun to a position behind it, and the planet will be bright enough to see.

From the lower southeast part of the sky to higher up in the southwest you'll see the five planets in a diagonal line. Venus and Jupiter will be the brightest bodies in the show. Mercury will be the toughest to spot, especially as the sun comes up and the sky gets brighter.

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If you miss it on Saturday, don't worry: The array is here for an extended engagement that will last until Feb. 23. In that time, Mercury will get brighter and appear to move even closer to Venus before beginning its descent. It will be at its most luminous (and closest to Venus) Feb. 6 and 7.

If you're not much of a morning person, just sit tight. The same alignment will be visible in the evening sky during the second week of August this year.

Cook said for the best view, you should be outside with a pair of binoculars around 6:15 a.m. Any spot with a clear view of the southern horizon should allow you to see the planetary array, including a backyard. But for the best view in the Southland, Cook had these recommendations:

The beach

Any beach will have a good view, but ones that run east-to-west offer the best vantage point. Long Beach and Malibu both fit the bill.

The mountains

The higher your elevation, the less chance your view will be blocked by a tree or brand-new luxury condominium building. Plus, you might get a clearer view over the city’s lights and haze.

Griffith Park

Though the observatory is not open that early in the morning, you can hike Griffith Park and get a great view to the south.

Stargazers have been observing similar planetary phenomena throughout human history. Many ancient cultures considered an unusual celestial alignment to be a bad omen. In this case, the only foreboding element is how early you'll have to wake up to see it.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter @jessica_roy.


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