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Fleeting Wonders: It’s a Planet Party with Orionid Confetti

conjunction mood, venus, jupiter

Planets converge for a party in the sky. (Photo: ESO/Y. Beletsky/WikiCommons CC BY 3.0)

There’s a celestial conjunction this weekend—did you get the invite? 

It’s pretty exclusive; not even all the planets are invited. Starting today, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are converging, which means that all three are within only five degrees of one another—their closest gathering until 2021. This means that if you go outside and stretch an arm towards the sky, your fist can cover the entire trio.

Venus is brightest, then Jupiter, then Mars, and they’ll remain in this close celestial threesome until Halloween. Mercury and Neptune are even trying to get in on the party. 

Five of the seven other planets will be visible from earth until Halloween, and three will be within a few degrees of one another. (Photo: WP/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you look carefully, just before sun-up, you should be able to spot Mercury peeking in on the trio’s lower left, and a distant Neptune to the right of the moon. They’re both visible through binoculars, though it’s best to have a telescope. Even Saturn might stop by in the early evening, before fading out of view. The best photo-op will come on Sunday morning, when Venus and Jupiter will appear separated by a mere one degree. 

This planet party is due to the planets’ positions in relation to one another. The distances between earth and its seven planets is always changing. For example, when Venus is on the same side of the sun as earth, they’re only 26 million miles apart at the closest point. However, when they’re on opposite sides, Venus can be up to 160 million miles away.

Halley's Comet 1986

A snapshot of Halley’s Comet and the resulting meteor shower in 1986. (Photo: WikiCommons/Public Domain)

Some bits of comet are crashing the party, too. From late Tuesday through Thursday morning, 10 to 20 shooting stars will pass through the sky each hour. This is part of an Orionid sprinkle (not quite a shower), which is a result of debris from Halley’s Comet. The sprinkle’s peak will be in the early hours of October 22. 

If you want more details on the gathering, check out this guide to the five visible planets.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to edit@atlasobscura.com.