The Conjunction of Venus and Mars on FridayThe conjunction between Venus and Mars on Friday will be visible to most observers in the northern hemisphere. The best viewing locations are high vantage points near the horizon. Big trees and structures will block the view. The conjunction will be hidden by sunrise‚ so the best time to observe the planets is 45 minutes before sunrise. However‚ this will not be an ideal viewing spot for everyone as it is likely to be cloudy.
Five of the major planets within our solar system will be shining brightly during rare planetary combinations starting Friday. The naked eye will see Mercury‚ Venus Mars‚ Jupiter and Saturn before dawn if the sky is clear. This is a rare opportunity to view Mercury which is often obscured by the Sun's bright light. Although the conjunction can be best observed on Friday‚ it will still be visible from all parts of the globe until Monday. This conjunction was last seen in 2004. It will not be seen again until 2040. According to Prof Lucie Green‚ chief stargazer and space scientist at the Society for Popular Astronomy‚ the planets will look like pearls that stretch out from the horizon. This is a unique event‚ as the planets will be visible in the same order that they were positioned by the sun. Professor Green states that this is not always true for planetary consorts‚ due to our view from Earth of the solar system. A crescent Moon‚ which will appear between Venus and Mars on Friday‚ will join the lineup. Planetary conjunction Between 45 and 90 minutes before dawn‚ the northern hemisphere (including the UK) will have the most beautiful views. Looking eastwards‚ and from high places like a hill or mountain‚ look very near the horizon. The view will be obscured by large buildings and trees. It is important to get up early because the sun will soon wash away the sky and obscure the planets. They can still be seen by the naked eye.
Prof Green recommends that sky-gazers avoid using telescopes and binoculars as they could cause direct sunlight to their eyes. Begin by searching for Saturn‚ the farthest planet. Next‚ count down through all the planets to find Venus. Venus is often very bright. Mercury should be the final planet on this list. Professor Green said it was difficult to find because it took her so long to finally see. She says it is extremely satisfying to be able to see the faint twinkling planet. The southern hemisphere and the tropics should have better views as the planets rise higher in the sky before dawn. However‚ early starts will be necessary.