How Often Do All the Planets Align?

In our lifetime how often do all the planets align? According to Michelle Nichols director of public observing at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago the alignment is rare and irregular. But we’ve got an early jump on the plants taking alignment: they’ve already started to take alignment. And the skywatcher’s calendar is already full of dates. The next time all five planets are aligned will be in 2022 2044 or 2500.

In 2492

May 6 2492 will be an amazing night for astronomers to observe the alignment of the planets. The eight planets will be visible at 5:10 am in New York with Earth as the exception. Unlike earlier times the planets will not be in a straight line; instead they will be grouped together in the same region of the sky at that time. Although this event will be spectacular it won’t happen every night and you should not plan on seeing this rare sight.

In order for the planets to align in this way they need to be within one degree of one another. That’s about 13.4 trillion years which is why it’s extremely unlikely to happen in our lifetimes. Also the sun will expand to a red giant in five billion years which will wipe out Mercury and come dangerously close to Earth. Nevertheless this alignment will still be one of the most amazing sights in the sky this century.

The eight planets will never align in this exact manner again. The next perfect alignment of the eight planets will occur on 6 May 2492. Until then it won’t be possible for them to align again until the year 2500. The last time that three planets lined up in the same part of the sky was Venus Jupiter and Mars in 2015. The next three-planet conjunction will be between Mercury Saturn and Mars in 2026.

If all the planets aligned in 2492 the Earth wouldn’t be affected in any meaningful way. Unlike other times when planets align Earth has never been hit by a collision. Since Earth’s gravitational force is relatively low the Earth would remain in its orbit even if all the planets merged into one. That means that any collision would be harmless. It wouldn’t affect life on Earth and the oblique collisions would only cause no noticeable effects.

Because this alignment only occurs in Earth’s skies the planets are only able to line up in the same location. Otherwise their alignments would be dissimilar. Moreover because the Solar System is flat each planet orbits in the same plane. Nonetheless planetary alignments are an impressive sight to see and June’s will be even more spectacular than usual. It’s worth noting that the alignment is not as common as other planetary alignments.

In 2022

In 2022 all the planets will align in a perfect constellation for viewing the moon and planets. Jupiter Saturn and Mars will form a straight line behind the crescent Moon making this an exceptional sight for observing the heavenly bodies. Jupiter will be closest to Earth on April 23 while Saturn and Mars will be the furthest from the sun. Observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have their best views in the early morning hours while those in the Pacific Northwest will need to wait until a few hours after sunrise. In mid-June Mercury will be joining the four other planets and Earth’s moon will be close behind them on June 17.

A rare alignment will happen twice a year for the outer planets in the Solar System. Currently three planets align with the Sun on a yearly basis while four planets align with the Sun just once per century. In March 2022 Mars and Saturn will be close together and Jupiter will be near the moon by mid-April. On July 4 all the planets will align. This alignment is an incredible spectacle to behold and will be visible to the naked eye from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.

The alignment will last for several weeks and the arrangement of the planets will shift from left to right. Jupiter will rise above Venus and will appear to the right of the planets. The moon will return to the eastern sky on May 21 but will slowly slide below the four planets. At the same time the asteroid Vesta the largest in the asteroid belt will appear high above Saturn and the other planets.

The year 2022 will feature two total lunar eclipses. The first will be on May 15 and the second will occur on May 16. Both eclipses will be visible in the United States South America Africa Europe and Asia. In late summer two ‘supermoons’ will appear. These are brighter than the average full moon and closer to Earth. This super alignment will create two new lunar cycles in 2022.

In 2044

When all eight major planets are in line in the sky a spectacular display of celestial beauty is created. This alignment of the planets will occur approximately every 13.4 trillion years. Considering that our solar system is only 4.5 billion years old this alignment is unlikely to happen in our lifetimes. The sun is expected to grow to red giant proportions in five billion years. The expansion of the sun will kill off Mercury and make Earth a dangerously close target.

The next time this phenomenon happens life on Earth will likely look very different than it does today. It may be possible to find some evidence for the existence of a new civilization in 2044 but the odds are slim. In the meantime we can enjoy the sight of the planets aligning in the sky for the first time since the formation of the solar system. By 2044 the planetary alignment will be one of the most beautiful things the universe has ever seen.

However despite the dramatic appearance of the phenomenon the effects would be minimal on the earth. Although many fictional authors have claimed that a planetary alignment will disrupt life on earth this would be very unlikely. The gravitational pull of the planets is very weak – only the sun and the moon exert enough force to have any effect on the planets’ orbits. In fact only the sun and moon have sufficient gravity to affect earth’s atmosphere.

However this astronomical event is not very common and the chance of it happening in your lifetime is one in a million. A conjunction occurs when the sun Mars and Jupiter are aligned in the sky. This alignment will be visible to the naked eye without the need for a telescope. This rare event will occur once per decade and will be the last in our lifetime. So the question is – how often do all the planets align in 2044?

In 2500

In 2500 all the planets will align in the sky. Astronomers call this phenomenon planetary alignment. Planets are often found in the same general region of the sky. While the planets rarely align at once this unusual alignment can be expected in the future. In fact the next time all the planets align is expected on May 6 2492. But in the meantime they are unlikely to align in the same place.

As viewed from Earth alignments occur when the brightest planets are in the same place at the same time. The most recent alignment occurred in April 2002 when Jupiter Mars Venus and Saturn appeared in a row above the western horizon. A crescent moon was the center of the celestial necklace. Next time this alignment occurs it will happen in thirty years. This phenomenon is a rare event and astronomers are looking for the next one.

A rare alignment of planets would have very little impact on Earth. Although some fiction authors have suggested that the alignment could cause severe problems for the earth’s environment the truth is that it would only affect life on earth minusculely. The earth’s gravitational pull is weak and the gravitational pull of the moon and sun is much stronger. But a rare alignment of planets would be even less disruptive for life on earth.

The alignment will last until mid-June. The event is marked by several interesting celestial events including the Venus-Jupiter conjunction the Eta Aquariid Meteor Shower and a total lunar eclipse. The alignment is believed to happen once every 2500 years. In addition to this two planets will appear conjoined on May 1.