See 5 planets simultaneously

Though it’s been mostly cloudy lately in Western Washington, there’s a bit of astronomical serendipity in the southern predawn skies.

Our solar system’s five brightest planets — Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter — are visible together until Feb. 20, an alignment last seen 2005. They’re in a gentle arc across the sky called the “ecliptic,” and it’s also the path that our sun and moon follow. It’s the plane of Earth’s orbit in space.

Look from southeast to southwest about 45 minutes before sunrise. You’ll need a clear view of the southern horizon to see all five planets, especially Mercury, which is only a few degrees above the southeastern horizon.

Also visible in the south are Antares, a star cluster or multiple star, and Spica, a double star. For more information on the phenomenon, go online to earthsky.org or skyandtelescope.com.

Robert Mittendorf