Five ‘naked eye’ planets in our solar system will be visible all at the same time this Bank Holiday weekend.
Brits not too hangover from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations are in for a special treat on Friday morning.
Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are set to line up in order of distance from the Sun.
People with an unobstructed view of the horizon to the east and south-east can observe the rare event.
It is the first time five of them can be seen from Britain in this particular alignment since December 2004.
Professor Beth Biller, personal chair of exoplanet characterisation at Edinburgh University’s institute for astronomy, told The Guardian: ‘This is really cool. We now know of many other stars hosting multiple planets.
‘This is a rare opportunity to see the same thing closer to home, with five “naked eye” planets in our solar system visible at once.’
The planets will rise above the horizon at the following times – Saturn at 1.30am, Mars and Jupiter at 2.45am, Venus at 4am and Mercury at 4.30am.
Dr Greg Brown, the public astronomy officer at Royal Museums Greenwich, said of all the planets, it will be easiest to catch a glimpse of Venus and Jupiter.
Mercury will be the faintest but it will be easier to spot it as the month goes on.
‘Your only chance to see all five planets at the same time is during a very narrow window after Mercury has risen but before the sun has,’ he warned.
‘A pair of binoculars or a telescope may well be enough to overcome the twilight in the case of the fainter planets, but do be very careful when trying to observe particularly Mercury in this way.
‘Ensure that the sun is below the horizon to avoid accidentally looking directly at it, which would be very dangerous for your eyes.’
While this is a very special occurrence, do not panic if you sleep in this time.
Amateur astronomers will have the chance to see it again with the moon joining the line up later in June – but again before sunrise.
According to Dr Samantha Rolfe, the principal technical officer at the University of Hertfordshire’s observatory, the ‘extraordinary scene’ will take place on June 24.
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