Last month, stargazers were treated to a rare “Christmas star” that saw Jupiter and Saturn aligned so closely that they appeared to be on a collision course with one another.
And this week, we will be treated to another rare and spectacular space event.
According to astronomers, over the next few nights Mars, Uranus and the Moon will come in remarkably close proximity in our skies, with Mars passing 1.75 degrees to the north of Uranus while also sharing the scene with the Moon, reports EarthSky.
The infrequent occasion will look best on Thursday evening, just after dusk through just after midnight in the eastern United States, when the Moon and the two planets will appear very close along the southwest horizon.
For those in the U.K., the meeting will happen at roughly 4:43 p.m. but when the sky turns dark, the planets will reach their highest point at roughly 6:06 p.m. before remaining visible until about 12:36 a.m.
Mars, which is the fourth planet from the Sun, will be especially luminous as it stands out from the stars and will lie just above the Moon.
Uranus, however, may appear as a somewhat faint dot. However, the vertical alignment of the three planets should allow us to see all three of the planets with Uranus shining somewhat dimly between the Moon and Mars.
“Uranus will be about 1.5 degrees down and to the left of Mars but will not be visible to the naked eye,” Dean Regas, the astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told local12. “You will need binoculars or a telescope to see it since it is almost 2 billion miles away.”
As EarthSky reported, Mars has been increasingly dimmed over the course of the last several months while the Earth has rushed ahead of it in our much more rapid and smaller orbit around the sun.
However, Mars is still shining brilliantly like some of the brightest stars in our skies. If the skies are clear, Mars will be easily visible as a bright, shining celestial object in the vicinity of the Moon.
Uranus, which is the seventh planet from the sun lying at a distance of roughly 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion km) away, will be extremely faint – more than 150 times fainter than the Red Planet.
The planet, which is about four times wider than our home planet – making it the size of a basketball if the Earth were an apple, according to NASA – is the outermost of the planets in our solar system that still remains visible with the naked eye.
However, given that seeing it with the eye requires extremely dark skies, the fact that the moon will be shining – in close proximity, no less – means that stargazers will definitely need binoculars or even a telescope to catch a full glimpse of the rare “meeting.”
“The interesting news is that Mars and Uranus are close together on the sky’s dome, so that – theoretically – you could see Mars and Uranus in a single binocular field of view for the next week or so, if the moon weren’t in the way,” EarthSky added.
So get your binoculars ready, and enjoy!
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