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Thursday, May 14, 1998 Published at 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK


Once-in-a-millennium sky event captured
image: [ A very rare get-together ]
A very rare get-together

Astronomers have observed an event that has not been witnessed from earth for more than 1,000 years - the Moon simultaneously passing in front of Venus and Jupiter.

The occurrence was photographed by Erich Karkoschka, of the University of Arizona, and four Brazilian amateur astronomers on Brazil's east coast, near the most eastern point of the American continent.

"This event was visible in the night sky of the southern Atlantic Ocean, including a few islands and a small part of Brazil," Dr Karkoschka said.

"At no other time duting this millennium was such an event visible in the night sky anywhere on Earth."

[ image: The event was only visible from a few islands and one region of Brazil]
The event was only visible from a few islands and one region of Brazil
During the last millennium there was only one other so-called double occultation of Venus and Jupiter by the moon.

It is believed to have happened on August 18, 567 AD and was visible visible from the north-west corner of the Indian Ocean. Though as it occurred closer to the sun it could not be observed from Earth as well as this year's event, Dr Karkoschka said.

"It is not known if anybody observed the A.D. 567 occultation," he said.

"Given the rarity of such an event and the small zone of visibility, there may be no record that such an event has been observed before in the history of mankind."

"When prehistoric people saw such a close gathering of the three brightest objects in the night sky, they must have been taken by awe."

"Only very few people saw this year's event since most people within the zone of visibility were asleep at that time," he added.

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