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In a rare cosmic occurrence, the Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will all be visible in close proximity in a near straight line, with Thursday morning expected to offer the final sighting.
The event began on Tuesday this week. But you can still catch the end of the show. Just be sure to wake up early on Thursday morning, as the dawn hours provide the most spectacular views. Roughly between 4 and 5 am local daylight time is estimated to be the best time.
The astronomical extravaganza can be viewed with the naked eye, but a telescope or a pair of binoculars are recommended.
On Thursday, the Moon will be ‘visiting’ Mars’ – moving to within 3.5 degrees below left of the Red Planet.
(On Tuesday the Moon had appeared closest to Jupiter, our largest planet. During Wednesday, the Moon looked closest to the ringed planet, Saturn).
Mars has recently been shining much brighter than usual and this is expected to continue until October, as it moves 800 000 km closer to Earth each day.
The timing of this planetary congregation couldn’t be much better, because with coronavirus lockdowns in place, night skies have generally been much clearer. It’s also a time when some people have been able to slow down and appreciate the environment a bit more and take the time to gaze at stars in the night sky.
Not sure how to view the show? Just punch in ‘star gazing app’ into your phone, and there are plenty of useful tools to assist.
Another even more exciting celestial event on the way
As impressive as this week’s viewings are, it’s just a warm-up for sky watchers to the big event set to take place at the end of this year.
On December 21, Saturn and Jupiter will move to just 0.1 degrees of each other. It’s the closest they will have appeared together since 1623.
Image credit: Astro Amigo