THERE is good news and bad news this week. The good news is, there's a very impressive gathering of planets on view in the sky this coming weekend. The bad news? You'll have to be up in the wee small hours before dawn to see it.

If you can get up early - or are still out, after a very late night - on Friday morning, at around 5.15am, you'll see Venus shining brightly in the east as a dazzling morning star. Look to its lower left and you'll see a star, Regulus, shining there, much fainter than Venus. If you continue to go down to the lower left at the same angle you'll see two stars quite close together. These are actually the planets Mercury and Mars. Mars will be the one closest to the horizon, and the fainter of the two. A pair of binoculars will help you pick them out from the background sky.

Two mornings later, before dawn on Sunday the 17th, Mercury and Mars will have swapped places - now Mars will be closer to Venus, and Mercury will be closest to the horizon. They really will be pretty close so a pair of binoculars will be a great help in telling them apart. And just to make the view even more impressive, a beautifully slender crescent Moon will be shining to the upper right of Venus, making a grand line up of four worlds in total.

Stuart Atkinson