Rare planetary conjunction that can be seen with the unaided eye has five of the largest planets in our solar system lined up in a row. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn shine before dawn in a clear sky. It's a unique chance to glimpse Mercury, which is often hidden by the Sun's dazzling brightness. Although most places in the world will be able to see the conjunction until Monday, it was brightest on Friday morning.
This combination last occurred in 2004 and won't occur again until 2040. According to Prof. Lucie Green, head stargazer for the Society for Popular Astronomy and a space scientist, the planets seem "like a necklace of pearls stretching out from near to the horizon."
The planets appear in the sequence they are positioned from the sun, which makes it a unique phenomenon. Considering the solar system from Earth, Prof. Green claims that isn't always the case for planetary conjunctions. A crescent moon appeared between Venus and Mars on Friday, adding to the lineup.
The greatest views of the northern hemisphere, including the UK, are between 45 and 90 minutes before sunrise. From a high location, ideally, a hill, look eastward and quite near to the horizon. The view will be obstructed by big structures or trees. You'll need to get up early since the planets will be hidden in the sky once the sun comes up and washes it away.
However, Prof. Green cautions sky watchers against using tools like binoculars or telescopes due to the danger of staring straight into the Sun. Instead, they should use their own eyes.
Start by gazing for Saturn, the planet that is most distant. When you reach Venus, which is often fairly bright, count backward through the planets. Mercury should thus be the last planet in the lineup. Because it's a challenging planet to find, Prof. Green claims it took her several years to notice it. If you can see this flimsy sparkling planet, it is quite rewarding, she explains.
Although an early start is still required, observers in the tropics and the southern hemisphere should have better views since the planets will rise higher in the pre-dawn sky.