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Rare, spectacular triple conjunction to grace the skies this weekend

Night sky.
Night sky. (Tomas Anunziata from Pexels.)

In case you missed the great conjunction last month, when the two biggest planets in our solar system -- Jupiter and Saturn -- appeared to come within 1/10 of a degree from each other, there’s another spectacular sight to catch this weekend: The triple conjunction.

Despite the fact that Jupiter and Saturn have now drifted apart to about 1 degree from one another, they still remain quite close from the human eye’s perspective.

And now, Mercury is moving in on the event. It will come into the same 2 degrees of sky with the two other planets this weekend, Forbes reports.

Saturday and Sunday, the three planets -- Jupiter at its brightest and Saturn at its dimmest -- will form a small triangle in the sky just after sunset (from wherever you are in North America).

Be sure to have a seat facing toward the west-southwest horizon, because it will be a sight you won’t want to miss -- and a rare one at that.

Jupiter (L) and Saturn appear about one-tenth of a degree apart during an astronomical event known as a Great Conjunction on Dec. 21, 2020. The planets, which remain about 450 million miles apart in space, have not appeared this close together from Earth's vantage point since 1623, and it's been nearly 800 years since the alignment occurred at night. The conjunction, which occurred on the night of the Winter Solstice, by coincidence, has become known popularly as the "Christmas Star." The gas giants will not appear this close together again until 2080.
Jupiter (L) and Saturn appear about one-tenth of a degree apart during an astronomical event known as a Great Conjunction on Dec. 21, 2020. The planets, which remain about 450 million miles apart in space, have not appeared this close together from Earth's vantage point since 1623, and it's been nearly 800 years since the alignment occurred at night. The conjunction, which occurred on the night of the Winter Solstice, by coincidence, has become known popularly as the "Christmas Star." The gas giants will not appear this close together again until 2080. (2020 Getty Images)

Though not quite as spectacular as the other nights, the triple conjuncture will also be visible Friday and Monday.

As preparation for the event, you should plan to be in a position that allows you to see down low; think of a third-story of a building or higher, where you can be sure to see the horizon. And there should be nothing obstructing your view. Binoculars are also helpful.

Take in the views, because they won’t even last two hours after the sun goes down, according to Forbes.

And because of where the planets exist in relation to Earth and the sun, Jupiter and Saturn will slowly move toward the sun and begin to drop behind its glare on Jan. 23.

But because our solar system is such an amazing thing, by Feb. 13, the planets will emerge from behind the sun to form yet another triple conjunction, but at that time, just before sunrise. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Will you be pulling out the binoculars this weekend?

Happy viewing!


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