Venus, Mars, Saturn huddle in western skies

Written by: Samyuktha
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Kolkata, Aug 10: The year 2010 continues to throw up great celestial events as star gazers of the country are now being treated to an unusual astronomical phenomenon with Venus, Mars and Saturn huddling together in the western horizon.

The planetary trio will be visible in the skies for two weeks in Aug 2010. Even though all three planets are relatively bright in nature and are visible to the naked eye, use of binoculars are recommended.

Speaking to The Hindu, MP Birla Planetarium director (research & academics) Debiprosad Duari said in reality, the three planets are very far from one another.

“The three planets will crowd into a very small area of the sky, within a region of eight degrees, making for a very distinctive and eye-catching formation," he told the newspaper.

“They will spend the coming week moving to the right with respect to Venus, creating a planetary triangle that changes shape from day to day. On Aug 12, a crescent Moon will join the planetary show," he is quoted as saying in a report published on Tuesday, Aug 10.

While anyone with a good view of the western horizon can see them, Dr Duari has recommended a time shortly after sunset as the ideal time of viewing, which would be around 6:15 pm.

Drawing attention to the fact that this is a very rare occurrence, the director said, “Since the orbits of all the planets are nearly on the same plane, the phenomenon of alignment, ie when all or several planets appear in a straight line or in the form of an arc is fairly common. However, for the planets to appear so close to one another is a rare sight."

This celestial treat comes after the country's sky watchers enjoyed viewing the red planet Mars on Jan 29 after experiencing the millenium's longest solar eclipse on Jan 15.

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