19
May
2013

Watch as Venus, Jupiter and Mercury align after sunset

The sky facing northwest this evening about 30-35 minutes after sundown. Venus and Jupiter should be relatively easy to spot provided you have an unobstructed view; Mercury might require binoculars. Stellarium

Hey, hey, hey. Three planets are now lining up in a neat row at dusk. Watch for the trio starting 30-35 minutes after sunset when they’ll be low in the northwestern sky.

The distance between Venus and Jupiter has shrunk over the past week and now stands at about 8 degrees or just shy of a fist held at arm’s length against the sky. Mercury finally joins the crew after emerging from the sun’s glare, though it will be the most challenging to see because of low elevation. As always when hunting planets in twilight, be a slacker and bring binoculars to make the job easy. Mercury will become easier to see by mid-week as it races up from the sun.

All three twilight planets appear close together near the sun in evening twilight is because they all lie in nearly the same line of sight (arrow) as seen from Earth. This view is a frame from a live orrery – click to watch the planets orbit the sun. Credit: dd.dynamicdiagrams.com

Venus is brightest at magnitude -3.4, while Jupiter and Mercury are near equals at -1.5 and -1.3 respectively. A week from now the three will all be clustered within a couple degrees of each other and form striking, triangle-shaped configurations that change night by night. I’ll have maps and times to look later this week. Get your cameras ready!

3 Responses

  1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Camera ready, let’s hope for the best meteo (I already catched in photo Jupiter and Venus about a week ago).
    Very nice and useful orrery, thanx for sharing!

      1. Giorgio Rizzarelli

        For low events at sunset I go on seashore where I have completely clear horizon. The problem in that case can be the low clouds, or at least the mist, often present on the sea. That day I saw Venus she was just above the cloud bank. Clear skies!

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