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Treat for stargazers as 'double star' due

A dazzling conjunction of Jupiter and Venus could lead to a flurry of UFO sightings early on Monday.

The two brightest planets in the sky will form a spectacular "double star" hanging low on the north-eastern horizon.

They can be seen shortly before sunrise at around 5am, appearing only 0.2 degrees apart - less than half the width of a little finger held out at arm's length.

It will be the closest conjunction of Venus and Jupiter since 2000.

Their combined brightness and low position in the sky could keep switchboards busy with reports of UFOs.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy in Britain, said: "They will be so close together that it's going to be quite a striking sight.

kissing

"Undoubtedly people could mistake them for a UFO, especially being so low down. They might appear to move around because of the distortion effect of the atmosphere."

Although the planets appear to be kissing-distance apart, they are actually separated by hundreds of millions of miles.

Venus and Jupiter pair up about once a year on average, but their conjunctions vary greatly in separation and visibility. Some are missed completely because they occur in daylight.

The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction is due to occur on June 30 next year, but will be less close.

hnews@herald.ie


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