In the first few weeks of August, the planets Venus, Mars and Saturn gather together in a close huddle. In a relatively unusual astronomical phenomenon, the planetary trio will appear in a triangular formulation on the western horizon.
“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,” D.P. Duari, Director, Research and Academics at the Birla Planetarium here, told The Hindu on Monday.
In reality, the three planets are very far from one another, Dr. Duari said. “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 August 12, a crescent Moon will join the planetary show,” he said.
Anyone with a clear and unobstructed view of the western horizon will be able to observe the phenomenon. Dr. Duari recommended a time shortly after sunset as the ideal time of viewing — around 6.15 p.m. Venus will be about 30 degrees above the western horizon.
Although the three planets are among the five brightest planets and are visible to the naked eye, Dr. Duari recommended the use of binoculars. Venus is close to both the earth and the sun, so will appear very bright, but Saturn and Mars will be fainter.“Since the orbits of all the planets are nearly on the same plane, the phenomenon of alignment, i.e. 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,” Dr. Duari said.