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spaceSpace and Physics

Watch A Rare "Planetary Trio" This Weekend As Saturn, Jupiter, And Mercury Meet In The Sky

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockFeb 26 2021, 15:25 UTC
Night Sky

There won't be another planetary trio in the sky until 2026. Image credit: Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock.com

For most of this year, you’ll be able to catch a lot of planets appearing near each other in the night sky, which makes for some cool astronomical views even without fancy equipment. This weekend, however, you can see a planetary trio that won't happen again for another five years. Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn will be in a tight little triangle in the eastern sky just before dawn.

Jupiter will be the brightest object you see in an east-south-east direction, and you should be able to see Mercury above it and Saturn to the right before the dawn's glow becomes too bright.

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The spectacle is visible in both hemispheres and their close approach marks the beginning of a series of planetary conjunctions. Next week, on March 5 Jupiter and Mercury will be cozying up to each other and just a few days later (March 9-10), you will see these two forming a straight line across the sky all the way back to Saturn.

In their apparent motion across the night sky – at least, from our perspective on Earth – planets do occasionally get very close. In December 2020, we had the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn ("great" because it involves the two largest bodies in the Solar System), something that only happens every 20 years. If we are not so discerning about which planets are involved, then conjunctions happen much more often. That said the encounter of three planets in the sky is still pretty rare.

The next one will be Mars, Saturn, and Mercury on April 20, 2026 once again just before dawn.  

Night sky February 28
The position of the planets on the morning of Sunday, February 28. Image courtesy of The Sky Live

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