Planets to align over Australia

By AAP with AG Staff 11 May 2011
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For the first time in 101 years, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars are lining up over eastern Australia.

FORGET THE HIPPIE-ERA song that has Jupiter aligning with Mars and love steering the stars. The fact is, those two orbs get together all the time.

The truly remarkable event – when Jupiter lines up with Venus, Mercury and Mars in the pre-dawn sky – will be visible in Australia’s eastern sky on Friday. The alignment of the four planets, which happens only once every 50 to 100 years, will occur just before sunrise, Sydney Observatory says.

“Every couple of years you get two or three planets that come close together, but to have four is particularly rare,” the observatory’s education officer, Geoffrey Wyatty says.

Planet alignment last seen in 1910

The last time Australians saw such a show was in 1910, and the next occasion would not be until 2056.

During the alignment, from 5am on Friday, the four planets will be visible just above the horizon in the east. Venus, in the middle of the group, will be the brightest. Just above and to the left will be Jupiter, while Mercury will be to the right of Jupiter and slightly fainter.

Early risers have already noticed Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky before sunrise, Geoffrey says.

“It looks pretty much like two headlights coming towards you. We are getting lots of calls already saying there are two bright lights in the sky.”

He wouldn’t speculate on how the alignment might influence people, astrologically speaking. “Astronomers don’t put any credence into that, in terms of the force exerted on people,” he says. “A mosquito buzzing around a room is going to have far more effect on you.”