SPACE: Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter form "triple conjunction" this weekend

Planets

An illustration of the planets of our solar system

Just weeks after Jupiter and Saturn provided a stunning display in the skies by appearing side-by-side, another 'great conjunction' of planets is set to wow stargazers. The last time this particular combination occurred was in October 2015.

There will be more astronomical hijinks up in the sky this weekend.

Didn't we just have a planet conjunction?

The "Christmas Star", which may or may not have met your expectations during Christmas week, will morph into a rare triple conjunction of planets this weekend. Their alignment, which is what a conjunction is, was so close - about 0.1 degree - that the two planets nearly looked like one bright spot. The two largest planets in the solar system came together on the same day as the winter solstice to mark a major celestial event. 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.

Clear skies are another must, meaning that if clouds cover the night sky on Friday and Saturday, you may have to wait until Sunday or Monday to get a good look. The tightest grouping of the planets will be tomorrow night.

Space.com's skywatching columnist Joe Rao strongly recommends that, because the trio will appear so close to the horizon and so close to sunset, stargazers use a pair of binoculars to clearly see the planets against the twilight sky. 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.

If you still happen to miss it, don't worry - as rare as it may be, there will also be a triple conjunction of the same three planets in February.

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