News World Look up, four bright planets have aligned

Look up, four bright planets have aligned

Four planets can be seen stretching across the sky at night. Photo: Getty
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For the next two months, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will be visible to the naked eye.

Simply gaze at the sky after sunset and you’ll catch the four planets in alignment.

The four planets tend to line up every few years, according to astronomer Dr Michael Brown, of Monash University.

He said they’ll be “particularly nice” to look at for the next few weeks, as the four planets appear to form an arch spanning from the western to the eastern horizon.

“Just to see them as stars, to see those brilliant points of light, you can just look up and see them,” Dr Brown said.

Mars could be clearly spotted throughout the night by its reddish colour.

It has advanced its closest towards Earth in about 15 years, reaching a distance of 57.6 million kilometres, according to NASA.

In 2003, Earth and Mars were 55.7 million kilometres apart. That was their closest encounter in almost 60,000 years.

NASA says the two planets won’t be that close again until the year 2287.

Mars can be viewed exceptionally well once or twice every 15 to 17 years.

NASA predicts Mars will make its next close approach to Earth on October 6, 2020.

Like Mars, Venus is also “hard to miss”, Dr Brown said. It appears mainly white and is “spectacularly bright … way brighter than a star”.

“In fact if you know exactly where to look, you can see it before sunset which is quite amazing.”

If you draw a hypothetical line between Mars and Venus, you’ll find Jupiter and Saturn. Both have a “slightly brownish-beige colour” to them.

“You can find Venus in the west and then moving towards the eastern part of the sky, you’ll pick up Jupiter then Saturn and Mars,” Dr Brown said.

Planets also twinkle less than stars, he added. That is the key to differentiating between planets and stars.

The planets can be seen from anywhere that you’re able to get a clear view of the sky. They’ll be most noticeable about an hour after sunset, Dr Brown advised.

Venus should be visible directly above the setting sun, he added.

Looking at them through a telescope or binoculars will obviously amplify their visibility.

Free apps like Planets and SkyView Lite can help you locate Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars by pointing your device at the sky.

“It’s a good way of getting kids into science and it’s a good way of seeing the solar system in action,” Dr Brown said.

“I tend to go old school because I’ve looked at the planets for longer than I’ve had a smartphone.”

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