Northern Irish stargazers are in for a treat on Thursday night, with five of the planets in our solar system aligned and visible in a spectacle that won’t be seen again until 2040.
The planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – will all appear in the night sky in their natural order from the sun and anyone looking up should be able to spot them, with the best chance in the early hours of Friday morning - as long as the weather holds up.
It will be the first time since December 2004 this natural phenomenon has occurred and weather permitting, promises to be a fascinating sight.
According to the Met Office, cloud is forecast across much of Northern Ireland, but there may be clearer spells particularly to the west of the province and increasing towards dawn.
It means those lucky enough to catch a break in the cloud will get the chance to witness the alignment.
In the next few months, the planets will appear to spread out farther and farther each morning and by September Venus and Saturn will disappear altogether, with the next sighting of all five in this order not happening again for almost another two decades.
Experts at the Armagh Observatory have confirmed Saturn will be first to appear into view, followed by Jupiter and Mars from around 1.30-2.00am. It’s a wait until 3.30am for Venus to shine, before Mercury is expected to complete the alignment around 30 or 40 minutes before sunrise.
Dr Rok Nezic from the observatory said the best conditions to view the cosmic sight will be to find a spot with a clear view of the east and southeast horizon and in an area with little artificial light pollution.
All five planets are known as “naked eye planets” and should be visible without the use of binoculars or telescopes.
“The best morning to view it is June 24, because the Moon will be in its waning crescent phase,” added Dr Rok.
“The Moon will also join the alignment and will be perfectly placed between Mars and Venus. This is the morning to shoot for.
“The next time this planet parade will occur won’t be until 2040, so fingers crossed for clear skies and cooperating weather.
“Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus will be the brightest and will stand out clearly amongst the stars. They will be vibrant and very bright, even in the pre-dawn sky.
“Mars will be to the left of Jupiter and Mercury will be to the left of Venus. Use these planets to find the others.
“Once you do, your eyes will be adjusted, and you will be able to see the entire alignment. They will form a nearly perfect arc from the East to the South. On the morning of the 24, the Moon will join the alignment and be perfectly positioned between Mars and Venus.”