Sky-watchers are in for a celestial treat this week as Venus, Jupiter and Mars perform a ‘dance in the morning skies.’
Astronomer Professor Mark E Bailey says until the end of October the planets will be seen in the morning sky in the east just before dawn, at around 5am (GMT).
The sequence of close approaches to the Earth by the three planets “will provide sky-watchers with some wonderful photo opportunities as well as the chance to see clearly the daily motion of the planets both with respect to each other and against the fixed stars,” adds Professor Bailey.
“During this period, the red planet Mars lies in a roughly ESE direction at a nearly constant altitude of approximately 25 degrees above the horizon.
Jupiter passes approximately a degree from the brightest object in the sky at this time, namely the “morning star” Venus.
“At the same time, Venus is dropping lower in the sky with respect to the background stars, and passes within a degree of the much fainter Mars around November 3.”
Jupiter’s moons, Europa, Lo, Ganymede and Callisto, will also be visible although the visible configuration will change every morning.
Professor Bailey says close approaches are rare, and when they occur “always provide an interesting and changing view of the night sky.”