Three planets congregate in the western sky shortly after sunset in late May. Venus is the brightest of the three, followed by Jupiter and Mercury. Venus and Jupiter will cross paths, with Venus climbing higher while Jupiter is dropping toward the Sun. [Tim Jones]
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A beautiful bit of cosmic theater plays out in the west-northwest shortly after sunset the next few evenings. The two brightest points of light in the night sky will slide past each other — the planets Venus and Jupiter. And a third planet, Mercury, will watch from above.
Venus is the brightest member of the trio — brighter than anything in the night sky except the Moon. The planet has been looping behind the Sun as seen from Earth, so it’s been too close to the Sun for us to see it. Now, though, it’s just starting to climb into view again, beginning a reign as the “evening star” that will last through the end of the year.
Jupiter, which ranks right below Venus on the brightness scale, has been in fine view since last June, when it climbed into the morning sky. But now it, too, is ready to pass behind the Sun and out of sight. It’ll return to view in a few weeks — once again in the morning sky.
Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, so it never remains in view for long. This will be a pretty good appearance for the little planet, as it climbs higher in the sky over the next few nights — although getting fainter as it does so.
Tonight, Venus is the lowest in the sky — just above the horizon about 20 or 30 minutes after sunset. Jupiter stands to its upper left, with Mercury a little closer to its upper right. By Monday, Venus and Jupiter will stand side by side, with Mercury pulling away from them. More tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013