After spending the week glued to the TV and our devices, we could all use a break from screens. Fortunately the night sky has a whole weekend’s worth of entertainment lined up for us, in the form of a rare three-planet conjunction featuring Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. The last time this particular combination occurred was in October 2015. Here’s what to know about this weekend’s astronomical highlight, and how to see some planets.
Didn’t we just have a planet conjunction?
As you may recall from seeing a news story about it every single day for three months, on December 21, 2020, we were treated to a once-in-800-years “Great Conjunction,” aka the “Christmas Star” aka the “Planets’ Kiss.” That one only involved two planets (Jupiter and Saturn), although they were incredibly close together. The one this weekend features those two planets — plus Mercury — although won’t be as rare as the one last month.
How to watch the three-planet conjunction
The meeting of the three planets actually began last night, and is visible tonight, tomorrow (Sunday) night and Monday night. All of the planets will emerge low in the west — close to the sunset point on the horizon — with Jupiter being the brightest of the three, followed by Mercury and then Saturn, according to EarthSky. The tightest grouping of the planets will be tomorrow night.
If there are clear skies in your area, you should be able to see the conjunction without binoculars — but if you happen to have them, you might as well use them to get an even better view. The best time to catch the conjunction is right after sunset — making it nice and early so the kids can get a peek before bedtime.
And if you miss this three-planet conjunction, another one is coming up next month, featuring Mercury, Venus and Jupiter.