AS FEBRUARY slides into March any skywatchers out there who enjoy looking at planets are in for a treat this week as there are lots on view in both the morning and evening sky, writes STUART ATKINSON.

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, which means it never strays far from the Sun in the sky, so we only ever catch a glimpse of it soon after sunset or just before sunrise. At the moment Mercury is an 'evening star,' low in the west after sunset. Although it is often called "elusive" and "hard to see," Mercury is actually quite bright and easily visible to the naked eye once the sky is dark enough. To see it this coming weekend, look to the west around 6.45pm-7pm and look for a silvery-orange star low down in the sky. If you don't pick it up right away, wait a while for the sky to get a little darker or scan the sky with binoculars and that should help you find it.

There's a lot going on in the morning sky too, and if the sky is clear on the morning of Friday, March 1, you'll be able to see a beautiful gathering of worlds low in the south east before sunrise. First you'll spot a beautiful crescent Moon. Look to its upper right, not too far away, and you'll see Jupiter shining there, looking like a bright, blue-white star. Having found Jupiter, go back to the Moon and look to its lower left - down near the horizon you'll see Venus, brighter than Jupiter but a lot lower. Look more closely and between Venus and the crescent Moon you'll see another star, gold in hue. This is another planet, Saturn. Again, easily visible to the naked eye but you won't see its beautiful rings without a telescope, unfortunately.

So, if your sky is clear Friday morning you'll be able to see no fewer than four worlds stretched out across the southern sky before sunrise. If your sky is cloudy Friday, try again Saturday morning. Then the Moon will be shining between Venus and Saturn.