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Look toward the southeast on Thursday night (May 3) about an hour after sunset, and you will behold a rare and beautiful sight, a triple conjunction of the moon, the planet Saturn, and the bright star Spica.
A conjunction occurs when two or more astronomical objects are close together in the sky. In reality they are far apart in space; their closeness is just an effect of perspective. In astrology such close encounters are supposed to cause serious effects, but astronomers know that conjunctions are nothing more than a beautiful sight and a photo opportunity.
Because Saturn is the farthest planet from the sun visible to the naked eye, its movements in our sky are very slow. It has been in the constellation Virgo, close to Spica, for a couple of years now. The moon, on the other hand, is very close to Earth, so appears to move relatively quickly across the sky.
Conjunctions like this one provide an excellent opportunity to see how rapidly the moon moves from night to night. On Thursday night, the moon will be well to the right of Saturn and Spica. Twenty-four hours later, on Friday night, it will be well to the left of Saturn and Spica.