If you’re an early riser, you’d be treated to a spectacular sight these few days as you look towards the eastern dawn sky:
There’s four planets in the photo – Mercury, Venus, Jupiter & Mars. Mars is the faintest of the lot, and you might have to hunt around with a pair of binoculars to spot it.
It’s an example of a planetary conjunction, which is what happens when a number of planets lie along the same line of sight, as seen from Earth. If you’re able to fly to a position above the Solar System, here’s what you’ll see:
Switching to a view from Earth at the above date and time, this is what you’ll see:
The above two images were generated using the Mitaka software. This visualisation tool also allows you to see what would happen over the next few days:
The trio of Mercury, Venus and Jupiter slowly breaks up as Jupiter rises higher in the sky. At the same time, Mars also rises upwards, forming another trio on May 20:
So it’s worth getting up early these few days to catch this sight – it’s a rare opportunity to see so many planets (especially Mercury) together, with just the unaided eye!