A uniquely visible cosmic event is set to sparkle in UAE skies on Wednesday.
Mars will make its closest approach to a dazzling star cluster for the first time in 30 years.
The Red Planet will pair up closely with the Pleiades cluster which is set to be highly visible to the naked eye during the night.
Also known as the Seven Sisters or Messier 45, Mars will not be this close to the cluster of seven stars again until 2038.
The planet will be 2.6 degrees south of the Pleiades, while in 1991, it passed 1.7 degrees south of the cluster.
Pleiades is a Greek word commonly used now to label the cluster.
However, it is known as Al Thurayya in Arabic-speaking countries and has been referenced frequently in Arabic poetry.
The cluster was popular in mythology and was among the first stars mentioned in literature, including Chinese texts dating back to 2350 BC and in European references.
In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were seven sisters, Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno and Merope.
Tribes in different parts of North America had their own legends. The Kiowa tribe, for example, believed seven maidens were sent to the sky by the “great spirit” to save them from giant bears.
Early evening until 1am is the best time to spot the conjunction, according to the Dubai Astronomy Group.
Several other astronomical events will take place this month.
On March 5, Mercury, our solar system’s smallest planet, and Jupiter, the largest planet, will form a rare conjunction as they cross paths.
On March 18, the crescent Moon, Mars and the bright star Aldebaran will form a triangle.
February was a busy month for Mars exploration.
The UAE made history on February 9 when the Hope probe entered the Martian orbit, making the Emirates the first Arab nation to reach the Red Planet.
On February 18, Nasa’s Mars Perseverance rover – the largest and most advanced rover Nasa sent to another planet – touched down on Mars.
Updated: March 3, 2021 01:52 PM