Five planets align in space for month-long display

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© Stellarium, with labels added by S. Sutherland

PLANET-GAZERS will be treated to a rare event in space this week, with Mercury, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter all visible at once, for the first time in a decade. 

Bright-enough to be seen without a telescope, the five planets will be visible for one month from January 20, after they align in the night sky. 

From left to right, along a line that traces the Sun´s path through a single day, the tiny planet Mercury will be seen first and closest to the horizon. Of the five planets, its faint light will be hardest to spot in the Northern hemisphere. 

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Volcanic Venus follows Mercury, and will be most easily seen from Earth. Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will come after Venus.

Astronomers have warned space enthusiasts that the planetary alignment will be best observed from elevated places with unobstructed views and no light-pollution. The optimal time of day for viewing will be 45 minutes before sunrise. 

Dr Tanya Hill, senior curator at the Melbourne Planetarium, confirmed that those who miss the celestial spectacle will have another chance to see it in August 2016.

The five planets are not expected to align again until October 2018. 

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