Find a clear western horizon after sunset, and this ‘triple treat’ of a dance can be yours.
Every once in a while, the night sky provides a spectacular feast for our eyes.
The planets and moons, all moving at relatively different speeds, constantly change their positions.
From May 21 through May 25, Mercury, Venus, and our Moon will all dance together in Earth’s post-sunset skies.
Mercury is currently emerging from behind the Sun, while Venus is swinging between the Sun and Earth.
In our skies, Venus now approaches the post-sunset horizon while Mercury gets farther from it.
On the nights of May 21 and May 22, they will almost coincide, passing within 0.9° of one another.
Venus’s thin crescent phase should be clearly visible through a pair of binoculars.
Nearby, in that same field-of-view, Mercury should also be readily apparent.
Over the next few nights, Venus descends and Mercury continues rising, with both joined by the waxing Moon.
On May 23, Venus and the Moon will make a close approach, visible shortly after sunset.
The next night, May 24, sees the Moon make a close pass by Mercury, with Venus still close by.
Mercury continues its ascent until June 4, but its brush with Venus and the Moon is your best viewing opportunity.
When looking at an interior planet, it will never appear to ‘wander’ too far from the Sun. As Mercury approaches its greatest elongation in the post-sunset skies, it’s generally useful to have a marker nearby to help in finding it, something that Venus and the Moon can provide.
Travel the Universe with astrophysicist Ethan Siegel. Subscribers will get the newsletter every Saturday. All aboard!
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Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.