A LIFEBOAT SERVICE in the UK were called out to deal with reports of a stricken boat – which turned out actually to be the planet Jupiter.
The Daily Telegraph reports that an RNLI unit and an RAF helicopter in Tynemouth, north-east England, were deployed at 7:30pm on Monday evening when a Good Samaritan spotted what they believed was an emergency flare being cast by a boat several miles offshore.
The search continued for around an hour, with no sign of any stricken vessels or other struggling seafarers – until it was figured out that there was no troubled vessel, but rather the stray reflections of light from a planet 630 million kilometres away.
A spokesman told the BBC that it had become apparent midway through the search that the flares were, in fact, reflections from Jupiter – which is currently coming as (relatively) close to Earth as it ever does.
The planet is currently appearing very low-lying in the skies – meaning that its light, when partially obscured by clouds, has the potential to be mistaken for flames.
“Although this was a false alarm, it was made with the best intentions, and we urge anyone who thinks they’ve seen someone in distress to do the same,” an RNLI officer told the Shields Gazette.
Astronomy Ireland is hosting viewing parties across Ireland this evening, inviting the public to watch the giant gas planet in detail through Ireland’s most powerful telescopes.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, but Jupiter still never ceases to amaze me,” said David Moore of Astronomy Ireland, explaining that viewers can observe the planet, its Great Red Spot, and its moons from its telescopes.
Viewing events will be held in Dublin, Cork, Kildare, Kerry, Louth, Waterford and Westmeath. Further details of the viewings can be found at Astronomy Ireland’s website.