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Engage Bobbie Gentry at dawn on June 3 and look for the planet parade. What to know

Many Mississippians know June 3 as the day Billie Joe MacAllister jumped from the Tallahatchie Bridge Bobbie Gentry sang in her 1967 hit ‘Ode to Billie Joe’. This year the date coincides with a ‘parade of planets’ in the early morning hours.

Far from being “another sleepy, dusty Delta day,” this celestial event will see Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune aligned in the sky.

The past few weeks of 2024 have been filled with cosmic activity, starting with the rare total solar eclipse on April 8. Then, in mid-May, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, made rare appearances as far south as the Gulf Coast. .

Next up is the planet parade, which happens on average once every 20 years, according to Star Walk, a real-time interactive astronomy app that tracks the movement of the night sky.

Participants watch the solar eclipse during an event at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson on Monday, April 8, 2024. On June 3, another celestial event will occur in the early morning hours as six planets align.

Participants watch the solar eclipse during an event at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson on Monday, April 8, 2024. On June 3, another celestial event will occur in the early morning hours as six planets align.

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Here’s what you need to know:

What is a planet alignment?

A planet’s “alignment” occurs when three or more planets are close together and appear to line up, explains Chris Sirola, associate professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Planets can align because they, and we, orbit the sun more or less in the same plane,” Sirola said in an email. “You can see a similar effect by looking at Jupiter with a small telescope. Jupiter has four large moons like ours or larger, which do this (align) because they too orbit in a similar plane to ours. Saturn’s moons don’t. We don’t see Saturn’s moons aligned like this.”

Specific alignments, like the one on June 3, are rare, although generally not, he said. For example, on May 23, Mercury, Venus and Uranus aligned.

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When can you tell that the planets are aligned?

The June 3 alignment will take place just before sunrise.

“People should be prepared to get up very early and face east with a clear view,” Sirola said.

Planets you will see and planets you probably won’t see

Although six planets will align, Sirola said it’s not true that they will all be visible:

  • The furthest planet involved in the planet parade, Neptune, is never visible to the naked eye. Sirola said, “It takes a big telescope to see it.”

  • Uranus, the second farthest planet, is bright enough to be barely visible. But on June 3, the planet will be close to the Sun and the Sun’s glare will obscure it from the naked eye.

  • Because it is so close to the sun, Mercury is always difficult to see. Moreover, it is also not as bright as Mars, Jupiter or Saturn

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: 6 planets aligned the day Billie Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

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