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Rare chance to see five planets and the moon align this week

Rare chance to see planets on parade
Rare chance to see planets on parade 02:53

NEW YORK -- A rare sight will unfold in the morning sky this Friday and Saturday. 

Five planets will be visible to the naked eye, along with an added bonus that truly makes the event rare, CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reports. 

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn rose above the New York City skyline just before daybreak earlier this week. Amateur astrophotographer Alexander Krivenyshev captured the stunning shot, but said it wasn't easy. 

"It took me almost 10 days," he told Murdock. "Mercury above a big city like New York City is very challenging... You already have the glow from sunrise, and the same time, it's quite tiny above horizon maybe behind buildings."

Still, against all odds, he persevered.

"They say that one person in 1,000 sees Mercury ever in their entire life and knows they're seeing it. That's how elusive that one planet is," said Mike Shanahan, Planetarium Director at Liberty Science Center.

Shanahan said not only are all five planets visible to the naked eye, but they are in the same order they appear in our solar system. 

"The last time this happened actually was December 2004. It's going to happen again in 2040," he explained. 

Weather-dependent, he said the best time to take it all in is around 4:40 to 4:50 a.m.

He said look toward the horizon in the east to spot Mercury. Follow the parade up and to the southern sky. The display takes up more than 100 degrees of the horizon. 

Why such a short window for optimal viewing of all five planets? Well, Mercury rises at 4:40, and within 20 minutes, sunrise will completely wash it out. 

In early June, Mercury joined the parade of planets. But this Friday and Saturday, a truly rare sight unfolds – an event that will happen only once, maybe twice, in your lifetime, according to Dr. Jackie Faherty with the American Museum of Natural History. 

"The five planets, plus the big special added character in this is the moon," Faherty said.

Faherty said the moon is in it to win it -- perfectly positioned where Earth would be in the planetary lineup, between Venus and Mars.  

"The last time this happened was in the mid-1800s," said Faherty. "To get the moon in there in this good alignment position that it's in, that's the part that makes this an-extra-cherry-on-top special."

It's a rare event well worth missing some sleep for.

Shanahan added July 4 is the last chance to see all five planets together. Mercury will no longer rise above the horizon. 

By Labor Day, Venus also disappears from view.  

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