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How to watch Mars, Venus, and Jupiter come together in a rare close encounter this week

Jessica Orwign

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A celestial event happening this week will be so bright even people in bright cities like New York City, will get to see it — as long as the morning skies remain clear of clouds.

The two brightest planets in the night sky, Venus and Jupiter, plus the dimmest, Mars, will appear to pass extremely close to one another all of this week.

This close encounter is called a triple planetary conjunction and we won't see another one like it until January 2021.

The apparent distance between Venus and Jupiter will be so small Tuesday morning that you could take your thumb and place it over both Jupiter and Venus and completely cover them.

The best time to see this rare celestial event is just before sunrise because that's when the three planets are high above the horizon but it's still dark enough to spot all three of them.

On its own, Mars is hard to identify because it is small and not very bright. However, you should be able to spot the red-tinted point because it will be extremely close to Venus and Jupiter — some of the brightest points in the sky.

As the planets move across the sky this week, they will trace a triangle that will grow increasingly small until it's only about 5 degrees wide, or the width of your three middle fingers. If you have a typical pair of binoculars, all three planets will fit inside your field of view.

Here's how they'll look this week, with Venus and Jupiter passing one another as the week progresses: