The real scoop on Monday’s planetary parade

WTOP's Valerie Bonk talks about Monday's planet parade and what to expect.

Have you seen the following on TV or online?

“Skywatchers are in for a treat on June 3, 2024, when a rare alignment of six planets will be visible in the predawn sky. This celestial event, known as a ‘planet parade,’ will feature Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune lining up in a spectacular display.”

It’s a quote from a TV news channel seen on Google search results for “June 3 planetary parade.”

Well, I hate to rain on this “parade,” but it’s not going to appear as stated above. In fact, other than being clickbait, this celestial happening ain’t gonna be that much to see.

Here’s the real deal about Monday morning’s sky as stated by Sky and Telescope:

“Let’s deal with this first. There is no “planet parade” spectacle! Friends and relatives may be asking you about the incredible “Planet Parade” they’ve heard is happening in the sky. Some internet and “news” outlets are calling it the third great celestial spectacle of this spring after the solar eclipse and the auroras.

Sorry. This is a case of a crazy-weird falsehood ballooning from a tiny kernel of truth and rolling like wildfire through the modern world.

The kernel of truth? This week, the seven planets other than Earth are in a line spanning about 90 degrees along the ecliptic. But most of them are too close to our line of sight to the Sun to be seen at all. Only modest Saturn and Mars are in naked-eye view as dawn begins these mornings.”

By the way, the ecliptic is the apparent path that the Sun and its eight planets make as they move through our sky during the year. Planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible to the unaided eye while Uranus and Neptune require a telescope. To be accurate, Uranus might be visible to an unaided eye with perfect vision and dark skies as well as with binoculars. Pluto as you saw in the Sky and Telescope reference is a different story as is the Moon.

In its always excellent monthly skywatching videos, NASA does not even mention the “June 3 planetary parade” in its June 2024 video but shows what will be visible — Mars, the waning crescent Moon and Saturn. There is lots to see in the June sky.

You can also see what the June 3, 2024, D.C. sky at 5:11 a.m. EDT will look like in the accompanying sky chart.

June 3 sky chart
This sky chart shows D.C’s sky at 5:11 a.m. EDT on June 3, 2024. (Courtesy Sky Safari Pro 6.0)

So, check the weather for Monday on WTOP and take a peek at the sky to see the real deal.

By the way, June kicks off my astronomy outreach season at Shenandoah National Park, Peaks of Otter, Capon Springs and Farm and a “Galactic Getaway” at Inn at Perry Cabin.

Hope to see you at one of my events.

Follow Greg Redfern on FacebookX and his daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration.

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