Starwatch: Planetary trio visible for first time since 2015

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Starwatch for the week of January 4th, 2021

Later this week, from January 8-11, you will be able to see a planetary trio. Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn will be low in the west sky.


A planetary trio is defined by three planets fitting in a circle with a diameter less than 5 degrees in width. For perspective, 5 degrees is about the width of three fingers at arm’s length away. They will be closest on January 10.


It may not be the easiest to find these planets. They will be low in the west sky and setting right behind the sun after sunset. The sun’s light may also wash away these planets. The best time to view them is just after 6 p.m., before they set by around 6:45 p.m. 


Using binoculars or a telescope will help see this trio.


The last time we saw a planetary trio was in 2015. 


The next planetary trios:
February 13th, 2021 (Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury)
April 20, 2026 (Mercury, Mars, and Saturn)
June 16, 2028 (Mercury, Venus, Mars)


Each day, Mercury will be rising higher into the night sky, while Jupiter and Saturn will be sinking below the horizon and soon leave our view. 

Thanks to EarthSky.

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