Two rocky worlds and a gas giant form a triangle at dusk at the end of May, low to your north west. From Saturday the 25th to Wednesday the 29th, Earth’s evil twin Venus, the gas planet Jupiter, and the solar system’s first world Mercury are in conjunction.
But spotting this early summer dance of the planets is definitely not going to be a piece of cake, as you’ll need
a cloudless north west horizon.
You’ll also need be quick off the mark, as the three planets soon follow the Sun below the horizon after dusk.
Choose an unobstructed north west horizon as much as possible, and then just hope the clouds stay away. The image above shows the how the planetary trio will appear on the evening of Sunday the 26th at 10.00 pm, and you can see just how this planet conjunction will be fleeting. No prizes for guessing what the brightest of the three will be…yes Venus, thanks to its sulphuric acid clouds reflecting sunlight like a mirror. Venus will be at magnitude -3.34, the planet Jupiter will next in brightness at -1.47, with fainter and much less obvious Mercury at magnitude -0.62.
The evening of the 25th sees Venus and Mercury at just over 1 degree apart, your little finger held at arm’s length is 1 degree….Jupiter lies to their west at 3 degrees away.
But each night from the 25th to the end of May will be a differing view, as the planets shift in relation to each other. Venus and Mercury are on the rise, while Jupiter is moving past them as it heads towards the horizon and eventually out of sight.
The planets look close together in the evening sky, but here’s the reality. They all lie on the other side of the Sun from Earth’s perspective, and here are their approximate distances. Mercury is closest at 106, 341, 443 miles from Earth, with Venus the second furthest from you at 152, 726, 391 miles distant, while Jupiter lies out at a whopping 564, 241, 750 miles away.
If you’re going to be using binoculars or any optical aid, make sure the Sun is completely below the horizon before use.
Good luck planet spotting.