Use This Month’s Rare Planetary Alignment To Teach Your Kid About Space
There are endless reasons why you might be out of bed before sunrise. Maybe you have a baby and things like sunrises and sunsets no longer have any meaning to you. Maybe your commute demands it. Maybe your kid has swim practice. Whatever the reason, here’s a reason to do it just a little bit earlier sometime in the next month: Starting tonight, for the first time in a decade, all 5 planets of this estimable solar system will be aligned and visible to your (and your kid’s) naked eye.
You don’t even need to have mastered these ridiculously simple stargazing hacks, because the fine folks at EarthSky have the whole thing mapped out for you. Just drag your kid to the nearest high point and look to the east (there’s a compass on your iPhone, Magellan). The planets will all more or less follow the same perfectly straight line across the sky as the sun and the moon, so make a note of that before you go to bed and then look for it in the morning. Mercury will be the furthest to the east, then comes Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter as you head west. Don’t forget to make a Pluto joke while you’re at it.
The show runs for the next month, but if you can’t motivate a single time between now and then (or if you’re kid straight up refuses to put their coat on), you could try again around sunset in August. But it’s not the real deal because you won’t be able to see Mercury unless you’re really far south — like in Florida. And no one should go to Florida in August, including people who live in Florida.