IF YOU'RE an early riser, an insomniac or a burglar you might have noticed a very bright star shining in the east before sunrise, writes STUART ATKINSON.

This is actually the planet Venus, currently on display as a beautiful morning star, and far brighter than anything else in the sky at that time.

At the moment Venus is rising a good two and a half hours before the Sun, so we get to see it in a very dark sky. This makes it look particularly bright and striking to the naked eye, even if you live in a light-polluted town.

If you live out in the countryside Venus will look like a lantern in the sky, and will reflect in any lakes you have nearby.

As you look at Venus you'll notice a star shining close to it, to its upper right - not as bright as Venus itself, but still easily visible to the naked eye. This is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo. The two will slowly move apart over the next couple of weeks.

After dark on Thursday evening (November 15) you'll spot an orange star to the left of the First Quarter Moon, and on Friday night the Moon will have moved on to shine to the star's left.

This is another planet - Mars, this time. Mars was a lot brighter in the summer, but it is still easy to see without any help from binoculars or a telescope.

Having spotted Mars, look over to its right, lower in the sky, and you'll see yet another planet just above the south western horizon. This is Saturn, looking like a yellow-white star.