Jupiter and Venus, two of the brightest planets in the solar system, will appear to touch each other in a rare celestial spectacle this weekend.
Although in reality they would be millions of miles away, stargazers on Earth would appear close enough to nearly collide in a once-a-year planetary conjunction.
However, this year Jupiter and Venus It will look much closer than usual and should be visible with only binoculars or even with the naked eye. If you miss it, you will have to wait another 17 years to repeat the performance.
In addition to the exceptional planetary conjunctions on display, Saturn Mars will also appear to be in a straight line with Jupiter and Venus.
The planets have been getting closer to each other over the past two weeks, said Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University.
“Although Venus and Jupiter get closer to each other every few years, this time there is also Mars and Saturn in a very rare combination.”
“If you have a telescope, a pair of binoculars, or a good camera, you’ll get a better view.”
Despite their close appearance, the planets would actually be 430 meters away from orbit.
The prime time to view the event in the UK was around 5am on Saturday from a high point with a clear eastern horizon. However, it will still be visible on Sunday and the following days as the planets diverge again.
From London it would be nearly impossible to watch, but in the far west of the country the planets would look even closer.
Observers in Sydney, Australia, will have a clear view of the pair of planets due to rise in the east at around 3.30am local time on May 1.
“The planets will differ in their brightness,” said the chief stargazer of the People’s Assembly astronomyProfessor Lucy Green told BBC News.
“Venus is much brighter than Jupiter, so it will look amazingly bright when you see it. Jupiter will be much fainter, about one-sixth as bright as Venus.”
Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and Mars came together in the eastern sky in a formation not likely to be seen again until 2040, during the early sunrise hours of May 13, 2011.
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