Astronomers in Northern Ireland will be able to catch a glimpse of a cosmic spectacle that won’t be visible until 2040

Astronomers in Northern Ireland are in for a treat on Thursday night, with five of our solar system’s planets lined up and visible in a spectacle that won’t be seen again until 2040.

he planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – will all appear in the night sky in their natural order from the sun and anyone who looks up should be able to spot them, with the best chance in the early hours of Friday morning – as long as time holds.

This will be the first time since December 2004 that this natural phenomenon has occurred and, weather permitting, promises to be a fascinating sight.

According to the Met Office, cloudiness is expected across much of Northern Ireland, but there may be clearer periods, particularly to the west of the province and increasing towards dawn.

This means that those lucky enough to take a break from the cloud will have the chance to attend the line-up.

Over the next few months, the planets will appear to expand more and more each morning and by September, Venus and Saturn will disappear completely, with the next sighting of all five in that order not occurring again for nearly two decades.

Experts from the Armagh Observatory have confirmed that Saturn will appear first, followed by Jupiter and Mars around 1:30-2:00 a.m. It takes 3:30 a.m. for Venus to shine, before Mercury completes alignment about 30 or 40 minutes before sunrise.

The observatory’s Dr Rok Nezic said the best conditions for seeing the cosmic view will be to find a place with a clear view of the eastern and southeastern horizon and in an area with little artificial light pollution.

The five planets are known as the “naked-eye planets” and should be visible without the use of binoculars or telescopes.

“The best morning to see it is June 24, as the Moon will be in its waning crescent phase,” Dr Rok added.

“The Moon will also join the alignment and be perfectly placed between Mars and Venus. It’s the morning to shoot.

“The next time this planetary parade takes place won’t be until 2040, so fingers crossed for clear skies and favorable weather.

“Jupiter, Saturn and Venus will be the brightest and stand out clearly among 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 have done this, your eyes will be adjusted and you will be able to see the full alignment. They will form an almost perfect arc from East to South. positioned between Mars and Venus.