No telescope needed: Catch five planets lined up in the night sky Thursday & Friday

(CBS) — We are in for quite a treat in the nighttime sky for the next two nights!  It is something right out of a middle school textbook.

For the first time in 18 years (2004), we will be able to see five planets, essentially lined up, in the east-southeast sky. And even more amazing, the planets will be in the order of their distance from the sun. From left to right (or better yet, east to southeast)…Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

There is one catch though…you gotta get up early, REAL early. The perfect view will occur about an hour before sunrise, which this time of year corresponds to just after 5 a.m.

Some suggestions on how to get the best view:

  • Pick a night with low humidity (haze) and obviously little or no cloud cover
  • Pick a spot with a clear view (no buildings or trees) on the east and southeast horizon
  • Pick a spot with as little artificial light pollution as possible

No telescope is needed. As long as you have a clear view, you can see the whole thing with the naked eye.

Mercury will be the toughest to see being the smallest of the planets and the lowest on the horizon.

As an added bonus, the Moon will also be hanging out near the planetary lineup this week.

Perhaps the most camera-worthy moment will come early Friday morning. The crescent Moon will fall perfectly in line with the five planets that morning, between Venus and Mars.

The planets won’t appear in this order again until the year 2040. So don’t miss it!

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