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Parade of the five planets

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are the five brightest planets in the Solar System. These five planets revolve around the Sun with different periods. They all appear to move closely along the ecliptic as seen from the Earth.

When the five planets move to the same side of the Sun (Figure 1), they can be observed at the same time from the Earth. This phenomenon is known as the "Parade of the five planets".

The "Parade of the five planets" occurs irregularly and the configuration of the five planets for each parade is different. During the last parade from late April to early May of 2002, the five planets came very close to each other. The angular separation of the planets projected on the ecliptic with the Sun as the centre was only about 33 degrees on 12 May 2002.

The "Parade of the five planets" recurs from late March to early April of 2004. When this event occurs, all the five planets can be observed in Hong Kong after sunset from around 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The five planets will appear near the ecliptic from west to east in the order of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Mercury will be near the western horizon. Higher up will be Venus, Mars and Saturn in the west or west-northwest while Jupiter will be positioned high in the east-southeast (Figure 2). The visual magnitudes* of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will be around -0.5, -4.3, +1.4, 0.0 and -2.4 respectively during this event.

* Visual magnitude is a measure of the brightness of a celestial object. The visual magnitude of a faint star is large and positive. The brighter a star is, the smaller the visual magnitude will be. The brightest celestial objects will have negative magnitudes (visual magnitudes for the Sun and full moon are -26.8 and -12.5 respectively). In a clear night, the faintest stars that can be observed by naked eyes in the countryside would have a magnitude of around +6.


Figure 1

Figure 1 When Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn move to one side of the Sun, from the Earth's perspective they will be relatively close to each other and the "Parade of the five planets" occurs.


Figure 2

      Figure 2     The positions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky in Hong Kong in January-March 2004.


Observation of the five planets in Hong Kong

Details on the positions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter in the evening time of 7:30 p.m. from 29 March 2004 to 2 April 2004 are shown below.

           

29 Mar 2004 (Mon)

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Saturn

Jupiter

Direction

West-northwest

West-northwest

West

West

East-southeast

Elevation (degree)

6

33

44

75

41

(Wednesday)

         

30 Mar 2004 (Tue)

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Saturn

Jupiter

Direction

West-northwest

West-northwest

West

West

East-southeast

Elevation (degree)

6

33

43

74

42

           

31 Mar 2004 (Wed)

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Saturn

Jupiter

Direction

West-northwest

West-northwest

West

West

East-southeast

Elevation (degree)

6

33

43

73

43

           

1 Apr 2004 (Thu)

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Saturn

Jupiter

Direction

West-northwest

West-northwest

West

West

East-southeast

Elevation (degree)

6

33

42

72

44

           

2 Apr 2004 (Fri)

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Saturn

Jupiter

Direction

West-northwest

West-northwest

West

West

East-southeast

Elevation (degree)

6

33

42

71

45

 

Other Sites on "Parade of the five planets"

Hong Kong Space Museum

Sky and Telescope

 

 

Last revision date: <20 Dec 2012>