VENUS will be returning to our evening sky soon, and in a couple of months will be spectacularly bright, writes STUART ATKINSON.

But if you want to see planets at the moment you'll either have to stay up very late or get up very early, because all the planetary action is happening in the eastern sky before dawn.

Go out at around 5am, look roughly towards the south east and you'll see a bright orange-hued star quite low down in the sky. This 'star' is actually the planet Mars, and, like Venus, it will be a striking sight in a few months' time. At the moment Mars is merely bright but still very obvious to the naked eye. Look at it through a pair of binoculars and you won't see its disc but its colour will be enhanced a lot, making it look like a garnet shining against the deep blue sky.

To the upper right of Mars, further over to the south, you'll see an even brighter star - the planet Jupiter. Jupiter will soon be overtaken in brightness by Mars, but at the moment it rules the pre-dawn sky. Binoculars will show you up to four of its family of almost 70 moons.

On Friday morning (February 9) a beautiful crescent Moon will be shining between the two planets, making a very attractive sight in the sky before sunrise. If your horizon in that direction is low you might even see a third planet, Saturn, shining to the lower left of Mars, but the famously ringed planet won't be rising until well after Mars so it might be lost in the brightening sky. A fingernail clipping-thin crescent Moon will shine just above it on Sunday morning (February 11), which will help you find it.