Backyard Observatory

Saturn, Jupiter & the Moon Will Form a Triangle in the Sky on Wednesday Night

Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon are coming together to make a beautiful formation in the night sky.

jupiter saturn moon triangle conjunction
Alan Dyer/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Jupiter and Saturn are the leading couple in the sky this month. The main attraction will be the great conjunction (or "Christmas star") on December 21. But like any good drive-up feature, there's opening entertainment. Fortunately, this is slightly better than a singing hot dog trying to convince you to swing by the concessions stand before the movie starts. 

Early on the evening of December 16, a thin crescent moon will be getting cozy with bright Jupiter and Saturn, which are awfully close to each other as well. The moon will be having a conjunction or close pass with both Jupiter and Saturn, bringing all three into close proximity for the brief period that they're visible that night. You'll see the moon just six degrees southwest of the gas giants, per Astronomy.

You'll find the trio congregating in the southwest sky just after sunset. You'll need to get out early to find them, though. Jupiter and Saturn will set at just after 7 pm local time. The exact set time will vary slightly depending on where you are in the US. In the Sky says that the gas giants will set at 7:06 and 7:09 pm, respectively, when seen from around New York City. Around Los Angeles, those times change to 7:22 and 7:25 pm. So, it's close, but around then in either place. (Note that you probably aren't getting a good view right around the time they set. They'll be low in the sky and easily obstructed by anything along the horizon.)

New York and LA are easy reference points, but if you want a great view, it's best to get somewhere dark. That can be difficult with how surprisingly far the tendrils of light pollution reach outside of the city. Nonetheless, you should be able to see the formation from most cities because Jupiter and Saturn are among the brightest objects in the night sky. 

While the trio will form a close little unit on December 16, the three objects will be relatively close on the nights of December 15, 17, and 18 as well. You can see a diagram of where the moon will sit in relation to the two planets at EarthSky. Though, the moon will be just a sliver of light on December 15. It would be a good night to look for Earthshine against the moon's surface. It might not be as stunning as the great conjunction, but if you're out at the right time, this formation will be unmissable and beautiful.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.
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