WHEN this dreadful weather finally improves, and the porridge-thick cloud rips open to reveal the sky again, there are two planets shining close together low in the south after dark that are worth looking for, writes STUART ATKINSON.

Jupiter and Saturn both have many dozens of moons waltzing around them, making them like miniature solar systems in their own right. Rather than being made of rock and metal like the Earth, both are huge, bloated balls of gas, hence their astronomical classification as 'gas giants'. They are the largest worlds in our solar system, by a long way, and dwarf our own planet; although they are both many hundreds of millions of miles away they are large enough to be seen in Earth's night sky with just the naked eye - and at the moment they are close together in the sky.

To see them, look to the south after dark and you'll spot Jupiter very easily, looking like a bright blue-white star quite low in the sky in that direction. Having found Jupiter, look a short distance away from it, to its upper left, and you'll find Saturn shining there, looking like a fainter, more yellow-hued star. Although you won't be able to see much difference from night to night the two planets are slowly coming together, and by Christmas will appear a lot nearer each other than they are now.