Sky watchers have something to look out for tonight, assuming you have clear weather and you can see the sky. The two largest planets in the solar system, Saturn and Jupiter, will be nearby in the night sky alongside Mercury. When the planets appear close to each other in the sky, it is called conjunction.
Pairing Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury were at their zenith last night, but the three planets are still close and will appear a little further away from tonight’s skywatchers. Mercury will join Saturn and Jupiter above the western to southwest horizon. The trio will be visible to the naked eye right after sunset for the next several days.
The trio will be viewable in an area about 2.3 degrees wide, which is roughly the width of the pinkie and ring finger and is at arm’s length from the body. Mercury will be the lowest of the three in the sky, with Jupiter being the brightest and Saturn the darkest.
Sky watchers with a basic set of binoculars will get a better view, and even the cheapest telescope in their backyard will help see the planets up close. A cheap backyard telescope might allow amateur astronomers to see some of Jupiter’s largest moons. While the planets were at their earliest on Saturday night, they would remain close for several days.
Saturn and Jupiter were their earliest times in December during the Great Conjunction. 2021 will be a good year for skywatchers who have a lot to look forward to in the night sky in a year we all hope will be better than 2020.