The celestial event will play out on Monday when the solar system’s two largest planets appear side by side in a “great conjunction” above the horizon soon after sunset.
In the distant past, such alignments of the planets were seen as portents of things to come, from great fires and floods to the birth of Christ and the ultimate collapse of civilisation.
The conjunction will peak at 6.37pm UK time, but the event will be visible in Britain from about 4.30pm until 6pm at 15 degrees above the south-west horizon. Noting the danger of cloudy skies, astronomers point out that the pairing can be seen two days either side of the peak.
The orbital paths of the two huge planets ensure great conjunctions every 20 years, but many are impossible to see with the naked eye because they happen during the daytime. Others are less impressive events, as the planets do not come very close together. This year’s will be the closest conjunction since 1623, the year Shakespeare’s collected works were first published.
Read more: The Guardian