May 21, 2013 in Space
The “Dance of the Planets” — what is it? The dance of the planets is the term popularly used for the astronomical event where Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury, are each within the same roughly 5° circle in the sky — and over a period of days change and rotate positions with each other — dancing.
Dance Of The Planets 2013 : May 24 – 30
This year the show will be best seen from around May 24 – 30 2013 — with Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury all seeming to be right next to each other in the sunset/dusk sky. In reality though, they will be nowhere near each other, it’s simply how they will appear from the Earth on those days. Jupiter will be over half a million kilometers apart from the other two planets.
While Venus and Jupiter are often easily visible in the night’s sky, Mercury usually takes a bit more forethought/luck to see. As Mercury is rather close to the Sun, the only time that it is visible from the Earth is when the Sun’s light is dimmed greatly — such as at/after sunset.
So for those wanting to watch, the best time is about 45 minutes after sunset, though really anytime within an hour or so of then is good. You’ll be wanting to look low on the west northwestern horizon. There will be a couple of bright ‘stars’ in the area — one of which will be Jupiter, one Venus, one Mercury, and then a couple of other true stars. The graphics on this page should give you a very good idea.
A note, sometimes/and in some regions, you may need to use binoculars to see all three of the planets. It’s a beautiful show regardless though, even ‘just’ with the naked eye. Also, it will be somewhat low on the horizon, so you may need to find somewhere with a good view of the horizon — anywhere very flat, or high up — coasts work very well, as do tall buildings/hills.
For more information on this year’s other best astronomical events, see: Astronomy 2013, Comet ISON, Meteor Showers, Solar Eclipses, Supermoon, etc
Image Credits: Nathan August © ; After Sunset via Flickr CC