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Five planets in rare alignment during morning nautical twilight

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are in a rare planetary alignment during morning nautical twilight

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

For the last two weeks of January and the first half of February, five planets will be visible together in the sky at the same time during morning nautical twilight. They are the naked-eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The last time this happened was in late December 2004 and early January 2005. Assuming the skies are clear, at around 7:00am, Mercury may be visible very low in the south-eastern sky; it is only a couple of degrees above the horizon so this will be a challenging observation to make. Slightly higher up at an altitude of around 5 degrees and a little further round to the south, Venus is unmistakeably bright. Mars is due south around 22 degrees above the horizon. Jupiter is prominent in the west south-westerly sky at a similar altitude to Mars. Finally, Saturn is visible in the south south-eastern sky around 13 degrees above the horizon, not far from the bright red star Antares. The optimum time to look gets about a minute or so earlier each day for the next week or so. The Moon joins this collection of planets during the last week in January and the first week in February as it progresses towards new moon on 8 February. The optimum date to observe this gathering of objects is 5 February at 6:55am.

Further details and other astronomical events can be found on HMNAO’s monthly astronomical web page.

Published 29 January 2016