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Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and moon to put on rare spectacle in sky

This past weekend, three planets joined the moon in a rare alignment. On Monday, these celestial bodies will be joined by Mercury. 

By Tariq MalikSPACE.com / February 27, 2012

Astrophotographer John Green caught Mercury, Venus and Jupiter over Mooresville, N.C., in February 2012.

John Green & The ULAO Project

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A cosmic team-up of planets and the thin crescent moon is dazzling skywatchers around the world this weekend, and the celestial sky show is just getting started.

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The planets Venus and Jupiter dominate the western evening sky at sunset on Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 25 and 26), with the crescent moon hovering nearby. The planet Mercury joins the cosmic trio briefly just after sunset before slipping below the horizon.

The planet Mars is also making its own appearance in the evening sky, but rises in the east a few hours after sunset in its own solo celestial show.

The sky maps of Jupiter, Venus and the moon here show how the bright objects, as well as Mars later, will appear in the night sky. 

"This is a great weekend to watch the sun go down. Venus, Jupiter and the slender crescent moon are lining up in the western sky, forming a bright triangle in the evening twilight," astronomer Tony Phillips of the skywatching website Spaceweather.com wrote in an alert. "These three objects are so bright, they shine through thin clouds and even city lights." [Skywatcher Photos: Jupiter, Venus & the Moon]

Early skywatcher photos

Skywatchers have already been amazed at the sight of Jupiter and Venus shining together with the moon this week.

"To see the three brightest objects in the sky form a perfectly straight line in the west was a very beautiful and very powerful sight that I will not forget," skywatcher and nature photographer William Ott told SPACE.com in an email. Ott snapped photos of the planets and moons from a spot just outside Woodstown, N.J.

On Saturday and Sunday, the moon, Venus and Jupiter will appear as a skinny triangle of celestial lights. However, the triangle will have a slightly different configuration on each night.

Tonight, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury will align in a diagonal line (with Jupiter at the top) with the moon appearing just above and at the right of Venus. On Sunday night, the cosmic line-up happens again, but this time the moon will appear higher in the sky, just to the right of Jupiter.

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