The June 21st meteorological summer solstice isn’t the only exciting thing happening in the skies this week. On the morning of Friday, June 24th, 2022, five planets will align and be visible in a situation that hasn’t occurred since 2004 — and likely won’t occur again until March 2041. The five ‘naked eye’ planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn — will be visible before sunrise. This special astronomical event is worth getting up early to enjoy. Though it can sometimes be challenging to see the skies with light pollution, we’ve covered where you can see the planets aligning in northern New Jersey + beyond. Read on to learn more about this phenomenon and where you can get a glimpse of it in New Jersey.
About the Alignment
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are called the naked eye planets because they can be seen with the naked eye. The pneumonic learned in school, “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas,” is a refresher for the planetary order.
The lineup of the five planets will be most easily seen on the mornings of June 24th and June 26th, according to Sky and Telescope Magazine, the magazine of the American Astronomical Society.
While the mornings of June 24th and 26th are the prime days for viewing, they will still be visible throughout the first few days of July.
These planets will all be visible to the naked eye, but observers are encouraged to bring telescopes to get a better view — in particular of planet Mercury, which will be the lowest and most faint in the sky. The Society goes on to say that the planets will be in the “correct order outward from the Sun starting with Mercury at the eastern horizon followed by Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and ending at Saturn. Standing under the spread will feel like looking out the window of spaceship Earth at our place in the cosmic order.”
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Where to Watch the Planetary Alignment in North Jersey
To catch a glimpse of this lunar lineup, be prepared to wake up early. It is recommended that observers be settled into their viewing locations about an hour and fifteen minutes before sunrise. Precise sunrise times for different locations can be found online. The ideal conditions include clear weather, as clouds or precipitation would obscure the scene. Observers should look at the horizon from east to southeast to spot the planets.
A good viewing spot is something that has some elevation and minimal light pollution. That can be hard to find in a densely populated urban area. The International Dark Sky Association has a map where users can find a dark spot nearby. The organization’s mission is to help combat light pollution and set up Dark Sky Preserves and other designated Dark Sky locations for stargazing and conservation.
Additionally, there are several places in New Jersey that are both dark and elevated, even if they aren’t a designated ‘dark’ spot. When checking a spot for its relative darkness, you can use this light pollution map to see how much light is measured there. Since many parks open after sunrise, camping overnight is an excellent way to watch the skies. Here are some of the best places in NJ to see the planets aligning.
Delaware Water Gap | Many entrances in New Jersey
The beautiful Delaware River separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania, and the enormous recreation area has many spots that would be suitable vantage points to see the planets. The park is open 24 hours a day. Camping is available on site, and reservations are highly encouraged.
High Point State Park | 1480 State Route 23, Wantage
The views are certain to be unmatched at this spot, which is the highest point in New Jersey. The peak elevation in the park is the summit of Kittatinny Ridge at 1,803 feet above sea level. Since the gates open to the park at 8AM, the way to be on site for the prime viewing times is to camp overnight. Reservations are required and can be made online.
Jenny Jump State Forest | 330 State Park Road, Hope
The rolling hills and craggy outlooks in Jenny Jump State Forest would make an excellent spot to see the planets. Visitors can explore the elevations of Jenny Jump Mountain to get some more incredible vistas. Since the gates open to the park at 8AM, the way to be on site for the prime viewing times is to camp overnight. Reservations are required and can be made online.
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Jersey Shore Beaches | Many
As if you needed another reason for a trip DTS, the areas along the Jersey Shore coastline have some of the least light pollution in the entire state. The low light pollution plus the ease of accessing the coastline, and an unobstructed view, might be MG’s top pick for a prime viewing spot. Watching the sun rise at the beach is a treat on its own, and to add this planetary performance would be one for the record books.
Wawayanda State Park | 885 Warwick Turnpike, Hewitt
Wawayanda State Park is located within the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest, which is an undisturbed forest full of old-growth trees. The park makes up part of the border between New Jersey and New York — the northeastern boundary of the park is the state line. This park has many lakes and streams. Visitors can enjoy the planets from Wawayanda Mountain. Since the gates open to the park at 8AM, the way to be on site for the prime viewing times is to camp overnight. Reservations are required and can be made online.