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2 planets will be visible in Tampa skies this weekend

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you’re up early this weekend, take a look up in the sky and you should be able to see two planets close to each other.

According to NASA, the planets Mars and Jupiter will be close to each other in the sky and will be visible before dawn Friday through Monday.

What’s happening?

NASA is calling it a Mars-Jupiter conjunction. A conjunction is when two objects in the sky – whether its planets, the moon or stars – appear close together in the sky.

“In the case of Earth’s solar system, conjunctions happen frequently because our sister planets travel around the sun in a fairly similar ecliptic plane, often appearing to meet in our night sky despite being millions of miles away from one another,” the agency’s website says.

According to NASA, you’ll be able to see both Mars and Jupiter about 20 degrees above the horizon. They’ll be less than a degree apart at their closest point or “no more than the width of a raised finger, with Mars appearing just to the lower right of the massive gas giant.”

“Planetary conjunctions traditionally have been more the stuff of astrology than serious astronomy, but they never fail to impress during observations, particular when the gas giants are involved,” Mitzi Adams with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said.

How can you see it?

The best time to see them will be about 45 minutes before sunrise, NASA says. Sunrise will be at 6:35 a.m. Friday and 6:34 a.m. the following days, according to timeanddate.com. You’ll want to look toward the eastern-southeastern sky.

Most stargazers should be able to see Jupiter with just the naked eye because of how bright it will be, according to NASA. But astronomers with the agency say you may need a telescope or binoculars to see Mars, which will not be quite as bright.

“We anticipate Jupiter will shine at a magnitude of -2.2,” NASA astronomer Alphonse Sterling said. “Mars, in comparison, will have a magnitude of just 0.7.”

Stargazing forecast

The Mars-Jupiter planetary conjunction will be visible here in Tampa Bay. Our Max Defender 8 meteorologists say the forecast looks clear and should make for a great viewing experience in those early morning hours.

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