If clouds obscure your view on Monday, don’t panic. The nearby planets will be visible in the vicinity over the next few nights, albeit at a slightly greater distance from one another.
For those looking to enjoy the view, telescopes are not required. Simply look west and southwest about 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter will shine brightly to the left, with Saturn, a faint light to the touch, adjacent to the right.
They will look very close – only about a quarter of the width of a full moon away from each other.
To make the display even more exciting, the half-lit moon will shine high above and to the left of the two planets, with Mars further along this diagonal line.
Where clouds may intervene
Over the Great Lakes, northern Ohio Valley, and inland northeast, low pressure will cause extensive clouds and some rain for some, obscuring the landscape. Tuesday night may provide a better view of eastern New England, but clouds may still prevail stubbornly over New York and the northern Appalachian Mountains.
Some places are on the margins of cloud cover and they may be somewhat questionable. This is the case for Washington, St. Louis, and Omaha.
In the metropolitan area, cloudy skies are likely to prevail, but some breaks may allow glimpses, especially in its south. Tuesday night offers better viewing prospects.
A pocket of moisture 30,000 feet above the ground may bring high clouds to parts of the Gulf Coast Monday night as well, but there’s a chance the veil of cloud cover was thin enough to allow some choppy viewing.
Most of the southeast should be cloud-free, however, allowing for the proper enjoyment of fleeting synchrony.
Other areas with favorable viewing conditions include the southwestern desert, the Four Corners, the plains, and the Ozarks.
The Pacific Northwest and Northwest will likely experience restricted viewing, the sophisticated low pressure system sweeping the beach tonight. It will bring broad clouds and rain at lower altitudes, while parts of the Cascades and Northern Rockies mountain range can expect a healthy dose of snowfall accumulation.
Areas that were cloudy in western Idaho, eastern Oregon, and eastern Washington on Monday may also have improved the chances of seeing the link on Tuesday evening.
How rare is this pairing?
According to Space.com, Monday night marks the closest visible conjunction of the two celestial bodies since March 5, 1226. Near planetary passages are a routine event, occurring every two decades or so. Only on rare occasions are they reunited in the sky so close.
The next close pairing will be in 2080.
There was a closer link on July 16, 1623, but it was not visible in temperate latitudes according to Space.com.
Some have noted that the Monday Night conjunction can bear a striking resemblance to the “Star of Bethlehem” or the “Christmas Star,” which, according to Bible teachings, guided three sages to Bethlehem before Jesus was born. It was initially thought that the iconic star might actually have been a conjunction similar to what happened on Monday night, but astronomical calculations prove the theory unlikely.
Interplanetary conjunctions are not extremely rare. On June 30, 2015, Venus and Jupiter surveyed each other in the western sky. This pairing, brighter, comes on every 15 years or so.