With overcast Wyoming skies expected, good luck seeing a rare parade of planets

An incredible parade of planets will be visible in early morning Wyoming skies Tuesday morning. At least the rare phenomenon would be visible if not for an expected blanket of clouds blocking the parade.

Six planets and a crescent moon will line up diagonally across the sky around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, the first time such an alignment has been visible in at least 30 years.

“Every once in a while, we have a lucky alignment of the planets in the evening or morning sky,” said Max Gilbraith, the planetarium coordinator at the University of Wyoming. “It’s a rare chance to see so much of our solar system.”

Unfortunately, the forecast for Tuesday morning is not very promising. Most of Wyoming will be covered in clouds as the celestial saga unfolds.

“Completely clear skies would be great, but we’re not going to have that for most of the state,” Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said.

Cosmos covered with clouds

Day said Wyoming has experienced its own parade of Pacific Northwest weather patterns over the past two months. That’s why it will be cloudy on Tuesday.

“The Pacific has been throwing these fronts since the beginning of April,” he told the Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “The state will be covered with about 60% high and mid-level clouds overnight and tomorrow morning.”

Day said there could be a few breaks in cloudy skies for Wyomingites to catch a glimpse of the Parade of the Planets, but there’s no telling when and where those pockets will appear. Day didn’t want to discourage anyone from trying to see the rare planetary alignment, but the forecast doesn’t indicate a high chance of seeing the parade.

“If the cloud forecast for 5 a.m. (Tuesday) is correct, which is suspect,” he said, “it looks like eastern and central parts of Wyoming have the best chance for cloud breaks. There will definitely be more clouds. in the north-east and south-west areas of the state”.

A sight hard to see

Cloudy skies blanketing the cosmos during a Parade of the Planets could be frustrating for Wyoming astronomy enthusiasts. However, the full parade will be a challenge to see even with perfectly clear skies.

When the Parade of Planets appears on Tuesday morning, Jupiter and Mercury will be so close to the horizon that their light will be completely obscured by the light of the rising sun.

“The pre-dawn light washes out the sky and makes the densest objects hard to see,” Gilbraith said. “The sun passing at a high angle to the north creates a lot of early morning sky glare.”

Additionally, Jupiter and Mercury will be in conjunction, where the two celestial bodies are so close together that they appear as a single object in the night sky. That means individual planets will be even more difficult to spot.

Meanwhile, Uranus and Neptune are always so faint that they can only be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Only Mars and Saturn will be easy to see in the early morning light.

The good news for anyone who misses this Parade of the Planets is that astronomers are already predicting others next year. Gilbraith said a similar show with fewer planets should be visible on August 28, and all seven other planets will be visible in a Parade of the Parents on February 28, 2025.

“It takes months for the planets to catch up with each other, and sometimes they’re on the other side of the sun, displaced,” he said. “It’s rare to see them like this, but there will be other chances.”

Andrei Rossi can be contacted at [email protected].