Venus and Jupiter thrill sky-watchers

Image copyright Tim Jilani
Image caption This photo of the planetary display was taken near Alexandra Palace in London

Jupiter and Venus – the two brightest planets – have appeared together in the morning sky.

They have been visible to the naked eye across the UK and countries in the mid-northern latitudes, including parts of the US.

Experts said they were so close as to appear almost on top of each other, perhaps looking like one bright star.

In the UK the best viewing time was 40 minutes before sunrise, but the planets began appearing before dawn.

While the planets have been visible to the unaided eye, viewers with a telescope have also been able to see Jupiter’s four Galilean moons.

People in the UK have taken to social media to share their photos of the planetary display.

Viewed from London, the planets began appearing shortly before 06:00 GMT with the conjunction occurring just after.

Those on high ground with a clear view of the eastern horizon had the best chance of witnessing the planetary display.

Image copyright Ian Bonnell
Image caption The planets were spotted here in the Merseyside skyline
Image copyright Jodrell Bank
Image caption The conjunction of the planets looks like a bright star

Image caption In 2004, the planet Venus could be seen crossing the Sun as a small black dot

Mark Thompson, an astronomer and former presenter on the BBC show Stargazing Live, said the conjunction occurs when planets line up in such a way that they appear from Earth to be next to each other – despite being hundreds of millions of miles apart.

Mr Thompson told the BBC the cloudy atmospheres of the two planets made them appear bright to the naked eye.

He said the event was not uncommon – Venus and Jupiter appeared together in 2015 and 2016, also on 13 November – but it was much rarer for them to appear so close to each other.

“There have certainly been cases where they’ve been close in the sky but they’ve not been this close in recent years, certainly the last couple of planetary conjunctions.

“This is actually quite a good conjunction because they’re so close, and over the next few years they’ll pass each other and be close but not this close…

“One as close as this, you’re probably looking decades rather than years.”

Those who missed the event will be able to see the two planets again on Tuesday morning, but they will not be as close together.

According to Nasa, stargazers will be treated to another planetary pairing later this month, when Saturn will meet Mercury on the western horizon at dusk on 24 and 28 November.

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