Planetary show begins as darkness falls

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will line up in the sky every night for about two weeks from tonight, in a view of the five planets that may be the best until 2036, according to NASA.

The five so-called `naked-eye' planets will be visible for an hour after sunset, and will appear in a line across the sky "from all locations" according to a statement posted on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Web site.

The five planets' orbits mean they only "sporadically" appear on the same side of the sun, usually every few years, according to NASA. Other such alignments will occur over the next few years, but this may be the best for at least three decades, according to NASA astronomer Myles Standish.

The planets will be visible after sunset tonight in the western horizon, with Mercury low in the sky, Venus and Mars above it, Saturn almost directly overhead and Jupiter nearly on the eastern horizon, NASA said, using a map made for a latitude of 34 degrees north, or level with Los Angeles, inform

According to The Moon emerges into the evening sky this week. First Quarter occurs on the 28th at 6:48 pm Eastern Standard Time. Luna passes by three bright planets this week. On the 24th, look for her slender crescent just two degrees from dazzling Venus. The following night she lies less than a degree from the soft ruddy glimmer of Mars. Finally, on the evening of the 28th, look for her about 5 degrees above the baleful yellow Saturn.

The Sun appears to arrive at the Vernal Equinox at 1:49 am EST on the morning of the 20th. This is the earliest time that this event has occurred since the year 1896. It will continue to occur a little earlier every four years until the year 2100, which will skip the leap year cycle in the Gregorian Calendar. The Equinox is defined as the moment when the apparent center of the Sun's disc crosses the Celestial Equator into the northern hemisphere of the sky, and astronomically it marks the beginning of spring. This date is a key date in many religions and cultures, as it fixes a number of important dates in various ceremonial calendars. For most of us, it's the time when the days seem to get longer at their fastest rate, and we finally shake the chill of winter.

Earth's neighbor Venus shines very bright in the western sky. Mercury is just below Venus on the western horizon but will set about an hour after sunset.

Mars, the Red Planet, may be seen to the upper left of Venus. It should be in is in its natural red-orange glow but not nearly as bright as it was last August when it came closest to the Earth in 66,000 years and was but 34-million miles away. Mars has sense moved millions of miles more distant.

Saturn, to the upper left of Mars, appears a pale yellow. And, gas-giant Jupiter appears as a bright star in the southwestern night sky to the observer.

Jupiter is closer to the Earth these days than it has been in 250 years. It is now about 400-million miles distant while the ringed-wonder Saturn is closet to the Earth in 30-years at about 745-million miles. A map of the night sky is first linked below.

NASA, just this past week, announced that the nine planets of the solar system - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto have a new little sister planet, a 10th, named Sedna. It is much further away in the solar system than Pluto at 8-billion miles from our solar system star - the sun, report

According to an earlier report by Pravda.Ru discovery of the one more planet in the Solar System made astronomers think again about the classification for planets. Working group of International Astronomic Union (IAU) intends to decide if this space object called Sedna is a planet or not. IAU considers minimum size of the planet as the key criterion. The outcome of applying this criterion may be depriving the Pluto of the status of planet. Some astronomers have always considered the Pluto too small to have this status.

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