June 2022 offers early risers the chance to trace out the naked eye planets, from Mercury to Saturn.

Sometimes, the Universe offers up an illustration of a ready-made science lesson. Just such an alignment occurs this month, as all of the naked eye planets are in order, from innermost Mercury to outermost Saturn.

Sure, you have to awaken early (it is northern hemisphere summer, after all) but the view is worth it. And unlike many astro-events, this one requires no special equipment or gear to witness… just a good (to quote Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica) working set of “Mark-I eyeballs.”

The June 2022 solar system from above. Credit: Heavens-Above.

This is not a true conjunction or alignment: the worlds of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are simply laid out before our fair world in the dawn. This was the sky of the ancients, a gathering of ‘wandering stars’ represented by the planets known of since antiquity. The orderly scene was made complete once bashful Mercury appeared low in the dawn sky in late May, and Mars swapped places with Jupiter after a close conjunction on May 29th.

Mars meets Jupiter on May 29th. Credit: Shahrin Ahmad.

Planetary Dawn Patrol

This offers one of the finest astronomical views for 2022. The planets are at their closest span (just over 90 degrees) tomorrow on the morning of Saturday, June 4th. The orderly row of planets is like something out of an elementary astronomy text book… minus our slot for the Earth between Venus and Mars. The sequence isn’t broken until early July, when Mercury departs the scene.

June 4th at dawn. Credit: Stellarium.

If you’ve never caught fleeting Mercury, now is a good time to cross the timid planet off of your astronomical ‘life-list’. Mercury reaches greatest elongation 23 degrees west of the Sun on June 16th.

The planetary dawn lineup on June 22nd. Credit: Stellarium.

Of course, catching all of the naked all planets about the horizon at once isn’t super-rare,
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