See Jupiter and Mercury align in the sky and an asteroid flyby this weekend

The solar system's largest and smallest planets will be in alignment this Friday.

In the morning, Mercury and Jupiter will be in conjunction and appear just above the horizon, according to NASA.

A conjunction is when two objects appear close together in the sky, but they can actually be millions of miles apart, according to Thomas Beatty, assistant astronomer at Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

It's similar to a merry-go-round, he said, with certain animals aligning as they circle around the center of the ride.

To the naked eye, the planets will look like two bright stars, Beatty said. The best time to view the conjunction is in the early morning hours, but it might be difficult to see in the Northern Hemisphere, according to EarthSky.

The views will be much better in the Southern Hemisphere due to Earth's angle in the sky.

An asteroid will make a flyby between Friday and Saturday, according to EarthSky. Apophis, an asteroid that spans over 1,312 feet, will be closest to the Earth -- over 10 million miles from our planet or 44 times further than the moon -- on March 5 at 8:15 p.m. ET.

Unlike the conjunction, it will likely not be visible to the naked eye, Beatty said. Stargazers can view the asteroid flyby online for free through The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome.

When the asteroid was first discovered in 2004, scientists believed the asteroid had a small chance of hitting Earth in 2029, Beatty said.

There was a one in 10,000 chance the asteroid was going to collide with Earth, but given the damage it would do, "one in 10,000 is sort of unacceptable from our standpoint of humanity," he said.

Luckily, the Apophis flyby in 2013 allowed scientists to gather better measurements and the new numbers show the chances are extremely low, Beatty added.

He said the large asteroid will still be passing close in 2029 -- about 24,000 miles from Earth, according to EarthSky -- and it will be easier to see in the sky compared to the 2021 flyby.


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