If you enjoy stargazing, you’re in for a treat this week. While you won’t need a telescope, you will need to wake up early.
In late March, Venus, Saturn, and Mars will “perform a majestic celestial ballet” when they form a small triangle low in the southeastern sky, according to National Geographic.
Then, on March 24, the planets will form an isosceles triangle low in the southeastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Mars (which will appear orange) and Saturn (which will appear white) will form the base of the triangle, while Venus will form the top point of the triangle.
You can see how the planets will align low on the horizon here.
On March 27 and 28, the crescent moon will even pass nearby. After that, Venus, Saturn, and Mars will still be visible before dawn, but their positions will change. Indeed, after April 1, they will appear in a straight line, according to Time and Date.
You can find the exact time each of the planets, and others, will rise for your local time here.
Keep reading to learn more about each of the planets and some tips for viewing them.
Venus, the second planet from the Sun, is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor. It’s sometimes even called Earth’s twin because the planets are similar in size and density – and are two of the four rocky planets in our solar system.
Nevertheless, there are significant differences between Venus and Earth. Most significantly, Venus has a “thick, toxic atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and it’s perpetually shrouded in thick, yellowish clouds of sulfuric acid that trap heat, causing a runaway greenhouse effect,” according to NASA.
Secondly, Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system. Its surface temperatures are around 900 degrees, which is hot enough to melt lead, NASA explains.
To put Venus’ size in perspective, if the sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth and Venus would each be about the size of a nickel in comparison, NASA explains.
Mars, the fourth planet from the sun, is a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere.
It also has a blood-red color, which explains why the ancient Greeks named the planet “Ares” — after their god of war — and why the Romans also named the planet after their god of war, “Mars.” The Egyptians called Mars “Her Desher,” or “the red one,” while ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Korean astronomers all called the planet “the fire star.”
There’s a simple explanation for Mars’ red appearance. Its surface is covered in dust and rock that has a high degree of iron. As the iron minerals oxidize, or rust, they become red, according to NASA.
To put Mars’ size in perspective, if the sun were as tall as a typical front door, Mars would be about as big as an aspirin tablet, NASA explains.
Saturn, which doesn’t have a rocky surface like Earth because it is a gas giant, is the sixth planet from the Sun. It’s also the second-largest planet in our solar system.
The planet’s most-known feature is its rings, which are made of chunks of ice and rock. Although Saturn isn’t the only planet with rings, it does have what NASA calls “the most spectacular ring system.”
To put Saturn’s size in perspective, if you placed nine Earths side by side, they would almost span Saturn’s diameter — not including its rings, according to NASA.
How To Observe The Planets
Since Venus, Mars, and Saturn will form their triangle low in the southeastern sky, you’ll want to make sure your view isn’t obstructed by trees and buildings.
Also, as is always the case with stargazing, optimal viewing comes from being far away from light pollution because that means the skies will be darker. You can use this map of light pollution to find places near your location that are optimal for stargazing.
While you’re thinking about the night sky, be sure to read all of our Stargazing content, including