LOS ANGELES - In January, sky-gazers had the rare opportunity to view a planetary trio — an astronomical event where Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury were in triple conjunction. Now, sky-watchers have a chance to observe another astronomical event — the conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury.
What is the Jupiter and Mercury conjunction?
Jupiter, the largest planet, and Mercury, the smallest planet, will meet and form a conjunction on Friday, March 5.
According to the Science Times, conjunctions occur when one planet's orbit around the sun aligns with another, which makes them appear as if they are orbiting in close proximity when viewed from Earth.
In reality, these planets are millions of miles apart but appear close when their orbits align. Their distance will be roughly 0.3 degrees or two-thirds of the width of the moon.
"Mercury and Jupiter essentially merge into a single bright ‘star’ — a ‘don’t miss’ event," the Farmer’s Almanac wrote.
How to watch the Jupiter-Mercury conjunction
To catch a glimpse of the vibrant planetary conjunction, you’ll want to wake up early and get out your binoculars about an hour before dawn on March 5.
According to AccuWeather, Mercury is the hardest planet to spot due to its proximity to the sun, but if you look for Jupiter — which is larger and will appear brighter — this should help you locate both planets.
This event will be visible to the naked eye, but you can get a much easier glimpse of the event through a telescope or binoculars.
You’ll want to look up to the southeast, ideally in a spot that has unobstructed views.
"The planets Jupiter and Mercury will appear at their closest to each other as morning twilight begins, appearing about 1.5 degrees above the horizon in the east-southeast," NASA wrote.
Those who live in the Southern Hemisphere will get the best chances of watching the Jupiter-Mercury conjunction, but those in the United States and Northern Hemisphere will still be able to spot the two planets.
If you aren't able to catch the conjunction Friday morning, the two planets will still appear in close proximity in the following days.
What will the weather be like on March 5?
A large portion United States should have fair weather — making for favorable viewing conditions Friday morning.
Sections of the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains may be battling heavy rain, and a smaller section of the Northeast could see some snow, but the rest of the country should remain dry for viewing the planetary conjunction.
Keep in mind, overnight and early morning temperatures can still drop below freezing across a large section of the U.S., so make sure to bundle up if you are heading outdoors to watch this planetary phenomenon.