May 21st, 2013 by James Ayre
The Dance of the Planets will be occurring from — roughly — May 24 through May 30. The “dance of the planets” is the name used for the event where Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury, all appear to be right next to each other in the evening sky, and over a period of time appear to rotate and change positions with each other. The show is expected to be a good one this year, so I recommend that anyone who has the time should check it out.
The best days to watch will be from May 24 – 30 2013 — when all three planets will be within 5 degrees of each other, in the sunset/dusk sky. They of course won’t truly be anywhere near each other, but in actuality hundreds of millions of miles away from each other. That’s relativity.
Venus and Jupiter are often easily visible in the night’s sky, though typically not near each other. And Mercury is itself a bit more elusive, requiring some forethought or luck in order to see it. Since Mercury is very close to the Sun, it’s only visible from the Earth when the Sun is dimmed, as seen from the Earth, such as at and after sunset/twilight.
ScienceHeathen has some details:
So for those wanting to watch, the best time is about 45 minutes after sunset, though really anytime around then is good. You’ll be wanting to look low on the west northwestern horizon. There will be a couple of bright ‘stars’ in the area — one of which will be Jupiter, one Venus, one Mercury, and then a couple of other true stars. The graphics on this page should give you a very good idea.
A note, sometimes, and in some regions you may need to use binoculars to see all three of the planets. It’s a beautiful show regardless though, even ‘just’ with the naked eye.
For information on the year’s other great astronomy events, see: Astronomy 2013, Comet ISON, Lunar Eclipses, Perseids, Solar Eclipses, Geminids, Supermoon, etc
Enjoy the show 🙂
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