Stargazers will get a rare triple planetary treat this weekend with Jupiter, Mercury and Mars appearing to nestle together in the pre-dawn skies. About 45 minutes before dawn on Sunday those three planets will be so close that the average person's thumb can obscure all three from view.
They will be almost as close together on Saturday and Monday, but Sunday they will be within one degree of each other in the sky. Three planets haven't been that close since 1925, said Miami Space Transit Planetarium director Jack Horkheimer.
And it won't happen again until 2053, he said.
"Jupiter will be very bright and it will look like it has two bright lights next to it, and they won't twinkle because they're planets," said Horkheimer, host of the television show Star Gazer. "This is the kind of an event that turns young children into Carl Sagans."
The way to find the planets, which will be low on the east-southeast horizon, is to hold your arm straight out, with your hand in a fist and the pinky at the bottom. Halfway up your fist is how high the planets will appear above the horizon, Nichols said.
Jupiter will be white, Mercury pinkish and Mars butterscotch-colored.
"It is a lovely demonstration of the celestial ballet that goes on around us, day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium," said Horkheimer. "When I look at something like this, I realize that all the powers on Earth, all the emperors, all the money, cannot change it one iota. We are observers, but the wonderful part of that is that we are the only species on this planet that can observe it and understand it."