Four Planets Huddle Up Before Dawn Week of May 9

Contact: Rebecca Johnson
Editor, StarDate magazine
512-475-6763; [email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2011

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Four of the five planets visible to the unaided eye huddle quite close together in the pre-dawn sky next week, according to the editors of StarDate magazine.

On the morning of May 10, Venus and Jupiter will stand side by side, quite low in the east, as dawn brightens. So long as you have a horizon clear of buildings and trees, they will be easy to spot. They are the brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon. Venus is the brighter of the two; Jupiter is to its left.

Mercury is visible to the lower right of Venus, about the same distance as Venus is to Jupiter. It isn't nearly as bright, but its proximity to Venus will help you find it. Finally, Mars is about twice as far to the lower left of Jupiter. It's so low and faint that it will be difficult to see, but binoculars may help.

The best view is from the southern states because the path the planets follow across the sky (the ecliptic) stands at a little higher angle relative to the horizon.

Published bi-monthly by The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, StarDate magazine provides readers with skywatching tips, skymaps, beautiful astronomical photos, astronomy news and features, and a 32-page Sky Almanac each January.

Established in 1932, The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, hosts multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States. McDonald is home to the consortium-run Hobby-Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest, which will soon be upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. An internationally known leader in astronomy education and outreach, McDonald Observatory is also pioneering the next generation of astronomical research as a founding partner of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

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