After more than a decade, people will be able to witness the beautiful spectacle of five planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – coming together in a rare astronomical alignment for the next two weeks. The last time this happened was in 2005.
This view was first seen in Britain just before dawn on January 20, but, astronomers say that the best view is likely to be seen on the morning of February 5. The planets will form a diagonal line from the Moon to the horizon and this should be visible with the naked eye.
Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society said that spotting Mercury would be a challenge as it will be near the horizon, but, the other planets should be easy to see before dawn.
“People will struggle to see Mercury, it will probably just look like a star but if we get good weather we should be able to see Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter well. But people should have a shot at seeing them altogether.Venus will be very obvious in the south east and Saturn will be a little bit higher up to the right. Further over at due south, you’ll see Mars and way beyond in the south east will be Jupiter.”They won’t be in an exact straight line, because you virtually never get that in astronomy. They will be more scattered, Massey added.
Dr. Robert Massey also mentioned that the best time to see the alignment is at around 6.45in the morning, just before dawn, for the next few weeks. Four of the five have already been visible in the early morning sky in recent weeks, but Mercury joined them for the first time on January 20.
“If you have binoculars you will be able to see Jupiter’s moons and the red tinge of Mars. You probably won’t be able to see Saturn’s rings but it will have a funny shape because of the rings which you should be able to pick out.If you are using binoculars it’s important not to look towards the sun when it rises,” he added.
In case you fail to catch the alignment this month, it will be happen again in August this year although the late days of summer are likely to make it even more difficult to see in Britain. After that, the five planets will not be seen together again until October 2018.