How to watch 'uncommonly beautiful' cosmic display from Sheffield as Jupiter and Mars align

Stargazers are in for a rare treat on Sunday morning as Jupiter and Mars align to produce an 'uncommonly beautiful' cosmic light display visible from Sheffield.

Saturday, 6th January 2018, 7:50 am
Updated Saturday, 6th January 2018, 7:55 am
The best time to observe the phenomenon is expected to be around 6.30am to 7am (photo: James Hardisty)

The planets will be visible to the naked eye, looking like 'very bright stars' as they appear side-by-side, according to a leading astronomer.

But you will have to get up early to catch the phenomenon.

It will be visible from around 3.40am, though the best time to observe the celestial treat from the UK is expected to be between 6.30am and 7am when the planets will be slightly higher above the horizon.

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Astronomer Tom Kerss, of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: "The planets should remain clearly visible even as the dawn twilight begins to emerge.

"The planets will initially appear straight down in a vertical line with Jupiter above and Mars underneath, but as they move apart they will appear as a diagonal line, with Jupiter on the top left and Mars on the bottom right."

Despite being more than 369 million miles apart, the planets will appear to be very close together, forming a nearly straight line with the Earth - an event known in astronomy as a syzygy.

Mr Kerss said: "At just a fraction of a degree apart in the sky, you'll be able to cover both of them easily using the tip of your little finger on an outstretched arm."

He advised those hoping to see the planets to find a spot where their southern view is not obscured by buildings or trees.

"The two planets will be unmistakable as apparently very bright stars, with Mars showing a pronounced orange colour against the pale yellow-white Jupiter," he added.

"The gas giant, despite being considerably farther away than its small rocky neighbour, will shine about 20 times brighter as seen from Earth."