Triple conjunction

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A triple conjunction is an astronomical event when two planets or a planet and a star appear to meet each other three times during a brief period, either in opposition or at the time of inferior conjunction, if an inferior planet is involved. The visible movement of the planet or the planets in the sky appears therefore normally prograde at the first conjunction, retrograde at the second conjunction, and again prograde at the third conjunction.

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The lining-up of three planets is a particular case of syzygy.

There are three possible cases of triple conjunctions.

Of inferior planets with superior planets or stars

If Mars is in conjunction with the Sun, there is often a triple conjunction between Mars and Mercury or between Mars and Venus. In the events in which Mercury is involved, the second conjunction is invisible because of small elongation from Sun; both other events are difficult to see because of the nearness to horizon and the relatively low brightness of Mars, which is there always near its greatest distance from Earth, barely visible.

For a Mars–Venus triple conjunction all three events can almost always be seen, but Mars is dim because of its great distance from the Earth.

Triple conjunctions between the inferior planets Mercury and Venus and the superior planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, dwarf planet Pluto or with stars take place when these objects are at the same time in conjunction to Sun while Mercury or Venus are at inferior conjunction. Frequently the second conjunction takes place when both bodies are too close to the Sun in order to be seen, while the other conjunctions are easily visible, especially if the other body is Jupiter, Saturn or a bright star.

With the dim planets Uranus, Neptune and dwarf planet Pluto the visibility of such an event is difficult, because of the low elongation from Sun.

Triple conjunctions of Mercury and Venus with the exterior planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and dwarf planet Pluto happen relatively frequently (approximately once in 10 years).

Between two exterior planets

These are the most interesting triple conjunctions, because all three conjunctions can be seen very easily, because of the great elongation of the planets or stars involved. Triple conjunctions between exterior planets or an exterior planet and a star can only occur when these objects are nearly simultaneously in opposition.

Triple conjunctions between the bright exterior planets are very rare: the last triple conjunctions between Mars and Jupiter occurred in 1789–1790, in 1836–1837 and in 1979–1980. The next events of this kind will be again in 2123 and in 2169–2170.

The last triple conjunctions between Mars and Saturn took place in 1779, 1877 (only in right ascension) and in 1945–1946. The next triple conjunction between these planets will occur in 2148–2149, in 2185 and in 2187.

For both at triple conjunctions between Mars and Jupiter and for triple conjunctions between Mars and Saturn it is possible that two such events follow at an interval of only 2 years. This last happened for Mars and Jupiter in 927 and 929 and will be again in 2742 and 2744. It last happened for Mars and Saturn in 1742–1743 and 1744–1745 and will occur again in 2185 and 2187.

The most historically important triple conjunction was that one between Jupiter and Saturn in 7 BCE-5 BCE, which has been proposed as the explanation for the star of Bethlehem. Triple conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn—so-called Greatest Conjunctions—last took place in 1682–1683, 1821 (only in right ascension), 1940–1941 and 1981. It will not occur again until 2238–2239.

There are more frequent triple conjunctions of Jupiter with Uranus or Neptune. They are unspectacular, but offer a good possibility for amateur astronomers to find these dim planets. The last triple conjunction between Jupiter and Uranus was in 2010–2011 and the next will be in 2037–2038. The last between Jupiter and Neptune was in 2009 and the next will be in 2047–2048.

At each opposition, because of the visible loop movement of the planets, there are triple conjunctions between the planet and some stars. Triple conjunctions between planets and bright stars close to the zodiac are not so frequent (approximately 2 events in 10 years).

Of the planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in right ascension between 1800 and 2100

YearInvolved planets1st Conjunction2nd Conjunction3rd Conjunction
1821Uranus–NeptuneMarch 17May 7December 2
1821Jupiter–SaturnJune 25November 23December 23
1836/37Mars–JupiterNovember 14, 1836March 5, 1837March 23, 1837
1843Jupiter–NeptuneApril 9September 15November 5
1845Mars–NeptuneJune 18September 2October 3
1846Saturn–NeptuneMarch 31September 14December 3
1851/52Saturn–UranusJuly 15, 1851October 4, 1851March 4, 1852
1877Mars–SaturnJuly 27August 26November 4
1888Mars–UranusJanuary 9May 5June 7
1896/97Mars–NeptuneSeptember 24, 1896December 12, 1896February 19, 1897
1896/97Saturn–UranusDecember 28, 1896June 19, 1897August 26, 1897
1907Mars–UranusMay 2July 19August 24
1919/20Jupiter–NeptuneSeptember 23, 1919March 13, 1920April 20, 1920
1927/28Jupiter–UranusJuly 9, 1927August 19, 1927January 23, 1928
1932/33Mars–NeptuneDecember 5, 1932March 11, 1933May 16, 1933
1940/41Jupiter–SaturnAugust 15, 1940October 12, 1940February 20, 1941
1943/44Mars–UranusSeptember 9, 1943December 26, 1943January 20, 1944
1945/46Mars–SaturnOctober 26, 1945January 22, 1946March 19, 1946
1952/53Saturn–NeptuneNovember 18, 1952May 31, 1953July 11, 1953
1954/55Jupiter–UranusOctober 8, 1954January 6, 1955May 10, 1955
1964/65Mars–UranusDecember 5, 1964April 3, 1965May 6, 1965
1968/69Jupiter–UranusDecember 9, 1968March 15, 1969July 18, 1969
1971Jupiter–NeptuneFebruary 2May 20September 18
1979/80Mars–JupiterDecember 13, 1979March 2, 1980May 4, 1980
1981Jupiter–SaturnJanuary 14February 19July 30
1983Jupiter–UranusFebruary 17May 16September 24
1988Saturn–UranusFebruary 13June 27October 18
1989Saturn–NeptuneMarch 3June 24November 12
1993Uranus–NeptuneJanuary 26September 17September 28
2009Jupiter–NeptuneMay 25July 13December 20
2010/11Jupiter–UranusJune 6, 2010September 22, 2010January 2, 2011
2025/26Saturn–NeptuneJune 29, 2025August 6, 2025February 16, 2026
2037/38Jupiter–UranusSeptember 8, 2037February 19, 2038March 30, 2038
2041/42Mars–UranusNovember 2, 2041March 16, 2042March 18, 2042
2047/48Jupiter–NeptuneJuly 24, 2047November 15, 2047February 26, 2048
2063Mars–UranusFebruary 23May 27July 17
2066Jupiter–UranusJanuary 19June 27August 18
2071/72Mars–NeptuneOctober 8, 2071February 5, 2072February 29, 2072
2079Saturn–UranusFebruary 28August 29October 23
2085/86Jupiter–NeptuneOctober 30, 2085January 13, 2086June 8, 2086
2088/89Mars–NeptuneDecember 14, 2088January 4, 2089May 13, 2089
2093Jupiter–UranusMay 16October 27November 30

Of the planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in ecliptic longitude between 1800 and 2100

YearInvolved planets1st Conjunction2nd Conjunction3rd Conjunction
1821Uranus–NeptuneMarch 22May 3December 3
1836/37Mars–JupiterNovember 15, 1836February 28, 1837March 29, 1837
1843Jupiter–NeptuneApril 9September 12November 8
1845Mars–NeptuneJune 21August 22October 8
1846Saturn–NeptuneApril 4September 5December 11
1888Mars–UranusJanuary 11May 4June 5
1896/97Mars–NeptuneSeptember 24, 1896December 13, 1896February 18, 1897
1897Saturn–UranusJanuary 6June 1September 9
1907Mars–UranusMay 2July 17August 26
1919/20Jupiter–NeptuneSeptember 24, 1919March 8, 1920April 24, 1920
1927/28Jupiter–UranusJuly 15, 1927August 11, 1927January 25, 1928
1932/33Mars–NeptuneDecember 6, 1932March 7, 1933May 17, 1933
1940/41Jupiter–SaturnAugust 8, 1940October 20, 1940February 15, 1941
1943/44Mars–UranusSeptember 9, 1943December 30, 1943January 16, 1944
1945/46Mars–SaturnOctober 27, 1945January 20, 1946March 20, 1946
1952/53Saturn–NeptuneNovember 21, 1952May 17, 1953July 22, 1953
1954/55Jupiter–UranusOctober 7, 1954January 7, 1955May 10, 1955
1964/65Mars–UranusDecember 6, 1964March 29, 1965May 8, 1965
1968/69Jupiter–UranusDecember 11, 1968March 11, 1969July 20, 1969
1971Jupiter–NeptuneFebruary 1May 22September 16
1979/80Mars–JupiterDecember 16, 1979February 27, 1980May 5, 1980
1980/81Jupiter–SaturnDecember 31, 1980March 4, 1981July 24, 1981
1983Jupiter–UranusFebruary 18May 14September 25
1988Saturn–UranusFebruary 13June 26October 18
1989Saturn–NeptuneMarch 3June 24November 13
1993Uranus–NeptuneFebruary 2August 19October 25
2009Jupiter–NeptuneMay 27July 10December 21
2010/11Jupiter–UranusJune 8, 2010September 19, 2010January 4, 2011
2037/38Jupiter–UranusSeptember 8, 2037February 19, 2038March 30, 2038
2041/42Mars–UranusNovember 2, 2041March 5, 2042March 28, 2042
2047/48Jupiter–NeptuneJuly 22, 2047November 16, 2047February 24, 2048
2063Mars–UranusFebruary 24May 28July 15
2066Jupiter–UranusJanuary 20June 24August 21
2071/72Mars–NeptuneOctober 8, 2071February 2, 2072March 3, 2072
2079Saturn–UranusFebruary 26August 31October 21
2085/86Jupiter–NeptuneNovember 1, 2085January 10, 2086June 10, 2086
2093Jupiter–UranusMay 17October 21December 5

Note that conjunctions in right ascension and ecliptic longitude need not take place on the same date. It is possible that there is a triple conjunction in right ascension, but not in ecliptic longitude and vice versa.

Some triple conjunctions between 2100 and 3000

YearInvolved Planets
2123Mars–Jupiter
2148Mars–Saturn
2170Mars–Jupiter
2185Mars–Saturn
2187Mars–Saturn
2221Mars–Saturn
2239Jupiter–Saturn
2279Jupiter–Saturn
2313Mars–Jupiter
2319Mars–Saturn
2388Mars–Saturn
2456Mars–Jupiter
2599Mars–Jupiter
2626–27Mars–Saturn
2629Mars–Saturn
2655/56Jupiter–Saturn
2663Mars–Saturn
2699–2700Mars–Jupiter, Mars–Neptune and Jupiter–Neptune.
2742Mars–Jupiter
2744Mars–Jupiter
2761Mars–Saturn
2791Mars–Jupiter
2794/95Jupiter–Saturn
2829/30Mars–Saturn
2842/43Mars–Jupiter
2866Mars–Saturn

See also

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  1. Phainon ; the personification of the planet Saturn. Associated with the god, Kronus/Saturn (Kronion).
  2. Phaethon ; the personification of the planet Jupiter. Associated with the god, Zeus/Jupiter/Jove (Dios). Phaethon also shares a similar name with Phaethon, the son of Helios and a queen of Aethiopia; after his disastrous attempt at driving the solar chariot, Phaethon was struck down by Zeus and placed into the sky as (also) the god of Zeus' planet - Jupiter.
  3. Pyroeis ; the personification of the planet Mars. He was also called Mesonyx, the Midnight Star. Associated with the gods, Mars/Ares &/or Herakles/Heracles.
  4. Eosphoros/Phosphorus and Hesperus / ; the personification of the planet Venus. Associated with the goddess, Aphrodite/Venus. The name, Eosphoros/Phosphorus, is specific to Venus in the morning, as the "Morning Star", and the name, Hesperus, is specific to Venus in the evening, as the "Evening Star"; while it was once believed that Venus in the morning and Venus in evening were two different celestial bodies, these two star-gods were later combined.
  5. Stilbon ; the personification of the planet Mercury. Associated with the god, Hermes/Mercury.

References

    This text is a translation of the German Wikipedia article de:Dreifache Konjunktion. Please update as needed.