Gaze at the summer sky with these stargazing events in the DC area

It looks like there will be decent weather for Saturday’s Astronomy on The Mall Festival and Smithsonian Solstice Saturday in D.C.

Both of these events provide a late-night excursion to enjoy extended hours at selected Smithsonian Museums and astronomy-related events.

(Courtesy Greg Redfern)

With a week left in June, it is still possible to see the five planets with just our eyes. What makes this sky spectacle special and somewhat rare is that the five planet parade is in proper order from the sun — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The last time this happened was December 2004, and it won’t happen again until 2041.

The key to seeing the planets is a clear horizon, free of trees and buildings, as the planets closest to the sun will be near the horizon when compared to the other planets.

Light pollution will not be a factor unless you have a glaring streetlight at your viewing location.

Atlantic Ocean beaches will be perfect for watching this event, as Mercury and Venus will be easy to spot above the ocean horizon. The other three planets should be a cinch to see higher in the predawn sky, according to Sky and Telescope.

On July 12, NASA will be releasing the first color photographs from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

Also mark July 13 for the premiere of “Ultimate Space Telescope,” a new episode of PBS’ long-running series NOVA.

Follow my daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at

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