The Mars-Venus and Moon triple conjunction happens from today, July 13 and here's how you might be able to see it
The planets of war and peace will meet in the skies over the next few evenings and appear much closer together to those watching them from Planet Earth.
Called the Mars-Venus Conjunction, it means the two planets will be lined up in the sky almost exactly and may appear to be just a finger-width apart. Here's why...
What is a conjunction?
Often described as a 'meeting in the sky', a conjunction is when two celestial objects appear very close to each other when they are looked at from Earth. This could involve the sun, moon, planets or stars.
During a conjunction astronomers say the angular separation between the two planets can be less than half a degree. But although to us on the ground they will appear exceptionally close, or almost touching, in reality they are still separated by great distances in the universe and remain millions of kilometres away from each other.
Conjunctions involving the moon, say experts, happen quite frequently but those in which planets come together happen much less often.
In December, Jupiter and Saturn appeared extraordinarily close to each other for the first time in hundreds of years.
A Mars and Venus meet-up
In July's summer skies, Venus and Mars can often both be more easily seen with often nothing more than a pair of binoculars.
Venus will be the brighter planet of the two, making it even possible at this time of year to see it with the naked eye.
But Mars will be considerably more faint and up to 200 times less visible making it the harder of the two planets to find.
When will the planets be closest together?
The exact time of the conjunction is expected to be at 7am Coordinated Universal Time on today (July 13). The United Kingdom is one-hour ahead of UTC time so this would be 8am this morning here (today).
While some astronomers have reported been able to see the two planets coming together in some parts of the world during the last 12-to-24 hours, it is expected that July 13 in the evening, with good clear skies, may perhaps give you the best chance of viewing the event.
Will you be able to see the Mars-Venus conjunction this week?
Ordinary binoculars should show Venus and Mars in the same field of view at their closest say experts - providing the weather obliges with very clear skies. With Venus being the brighter planet of the two, the advice is to look to the west for the bright glow of this planet first, which is likely to show itself more immediately than the red planet that will be to its left in the sky but considerably fainter.
The rising times for Mars and Venus are both around 8am - setting at around 10.30pm in July evenings. You can check the visibility of planets here.
While the two planets could be visible during the day it is twilight skies that may give rise to the best chance of viewing them - along with a thin young crescent moon that is also expected to align with the planets.
This would be in the glowing light after tonight's sunset, which is expected to take place just after 9pm, with the planets excepted to remain in the sky for around a further 90 minutes after the sun has gone down.
You will also need a good unobstructed view of the horizon, which could mean many people find it tricky to see it in the UK, with In-the-sky.org suggesting the planets may be no higher than six degrees above the horizon at dusk.
The lining-up of both planets - together with the new crescent moon - is often referred to as a triple conjunction.