IF YOU'VE been up early - or stayed out very late - recently you'll have seen a very bright 'star' blazing low in the east before dawn, writes STUART ATKINSON. This star is actually a planet - the planet Venus. It's currently a morning star but is more commonly known as The Evening Star because it is sometimes visible in the west after sunset. Many more people see it then because they're already up and see it on their way home from work, or on their way out shopping or going to the pub. But right now it is a very striking sight for a few hours before sunrise.

It's got company, too. If you have a clear sky at around 5.15 you'll see what looks like a pair of stars to the lower left of Venus, both much fainter than Venus. The star on the left is a star called Regulus, but shining next to it is the planet Mercury. It has more of a coppery hue than Venus.

If you have good eyesight and a low eastern horizon you might also see a third planet in the pre-dawn sky - Mars will be to the lower left of Mercury, looking like an orange star. But with sunrise just an hour away the sky might be too bright to see it.

Meanwhile, astronomer and author Stuart takes audiences on a tour of the night sky, in the Secret Landscape of the Lakes as part of a series of inspiring talks and films during this weekend's Lakes Alive festival of incredibly imaginative contemporary arts across Kendal.

During his two talks at the Shakespeare Centre on Saturday and Sunday (1pm-2pm) Stuart explores the biggest landscape of all - space.