How to See Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury Cosying up in the Sky This Month

NASA has published a number of skywatching tips for March which show that Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn are all due to appear near the horizon on the morning of March 9.

The three planets will appear from the southeast to the east-southeast just above the horizon to the left of the Moon in the morning twilight.

The Moon should appear in the southeast at about 7 degrees above the horizon. Saturn will be about eight degrees left of the Moon at around the same elevation; Jupiter will be left of Saturn at around three degrees above the horizon; and Mercury will appear just above the horizon left of Jupiter.

The upcoming event follows the conjunction of Mercury and Jupiter, which aligned with one another on the morning of March 5.

The two planets are the smallest and largest in the solar system respectively. They appeared in conjunction around 1.5 degrees above the horizon in the east-southeast.

Those viewing the event in the southern hemisphere would have had the best view of the occasion, while those in northerly latitudes might have a hard time seeing the planets in the morning light, EarthSky said.

Planets are in conjunction when they appear very close to one another in the sky. The term also applies to any object in the sky's dome, so a planet may be in conjunction with a particular star, or even a cluster of stars.

Although two or more planets may appear close to one another in the night sky, in reality they are hundreds of millions of miles apart. Mercury, being the closest planet to the Sun, is 35.4 millions miles away from our star. The distance between Jupiter and the Sun is several times this, at 484 million miles.

Another skywatching event will occur at 8:15 p.m. on March 5 when the asteroid Apophis will pass by the Earth at a distance of around 10.4 million miles. It will be the closest pass the asteroid will make until 2029, when NASA expects it will come so close to our planet that people will be able to see it with the naked eye.

The space rock is also known as the "God of Chaos" because scientists calculated a 2.7 percent chance it would collide with the Earth in 2029 when it was first discovered around 15 years ago. NASA now says it will pass by safely. The Virtual Telescope Project is hosting a live stream of the March 5 fly-by.

Man using telescope
A man stands in front of his telescope for a partial lunar eclipse over Vienna, July 16, 2019. NASA has provided a calendar of astronomical events happening this month. Georg Hochmuth/AFP/Getty