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Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn Will Form Rare Triple Conjunction Tonight

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Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn Will Form Rare Triple Conjunction Tonight

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.

This time, Mercury's decided to join the party, with the three planets appearing close together in a rare triple conjunction tonight (Sunday 10 January).

According to EarthSky, the 'spectacularly-close threesome' will be on showcase at dusk.

The website says: "These three planets will snuggle up most closely on the sky's dome for the month, fitting inside a circle measuring 2.4 degrees in diameter. (For reference, the width of a finger at arm's length spans about 2 degrees of sky.)

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"A grouping of three planets in a circle whose diameter spans 5 degrees or less is known as a planetary trio."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

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.

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The site explains that the three bodies will form a 'small neat triangle' low in the west-southwest sky, appearing about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset.

"Jupiter will appear at the top of the triangle, glowing about two-and-a-half times brighter than Mercury, and 10 times brighter than Saturn," it explains.

Space.com also adds that this may be the last chance to catch Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky for a while, as the planets continues to 'descend farther and farther into the blazing sunset'.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA
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Mercury, however, will continue to rise - meaning it remains visible throughout the rest of the month.

Of course, while the three planets look like they're nudging up close to each other, they're still not exactly within spitting distance.

When the great conjunction started a few weeks ago, Jupiter was about 550 million miles from Earth - which is about 5.9 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Saturn was about one billion miles from Earth - that's roughly 10.8 times Earth's distance from the sun.

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Mercury is much closer at about 120 million miles from Earth.

According to Space.com, the reason why all three look so close together is that their orbits have put them all in a straight line 'relative to Earth'.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News, News, space

Jess Hardiman
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