If you aren’t an early riser, you may want to be during the month of May. Four planets are doing a sort of square dance in the morning twilight glow in advance of sunrise. Taking the stage are the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.
If you aren’t an early riser, you may want to be during the month of May.
Four planets are doing a sort of square dance in the morning twilight glow in advance of sunrise. Taking the stage are the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.
Through the next few weeks, if you have a low view of the eastern horizon and a clear sky, you can watch as the worlds gradually shift about, trading places as come near each other or back off - much like at a square dance on another planet we call Earth.
Mind you, I haven’t square danced since gym class back in high school. That was a good many years back. Nevertheless, the interplanetary dance has gone on for millennia, as they move about in their orbits.
You should bring a pair of binoculars with you, to aid in picking out the planets in the brightening glow of dawn. Venus will be easiest, as it is standing higher in the sky and may be seen low in the east before the sky brightens very much.
On May 1, look low in the east about 20 minutes before sunrise. The sky will be bright; binoculars may show Jupiter and Mars, less than a half degree apart, low. Above it will be a thin crescent moon, adding to the spectacle. To the right is bright Venus, and to the lower left of Venus is less-bright Mercury.
By May 7, look a half hour before sunrise. You will see Mercury immediately below brilliant Venus, making a nice triangle with Jupiter to the left. Dim Mars is to the lower left of Jupiter. By May 11, this triangle becomes a close line, with Jupiter on top, next to Venus and then Mercury, and Mars over to the left.
May 15, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter form an “L” shape, with Jupiter at the high point and Venus marking the corner. Mars is to the left. As the days progress, Jupiter is farther away, to the upper right. Brilliant Venus, Mercury and Mars make a tight angle, gradually altering in configuration. Mars is the dimmest, and stays to the left.
What you are witnessing is an ever - changing perspective as seen from Earth, as the planets in their courses move at varying speeds and distances. Their orbits are roughly concentric like groves on an old phonograph record. The farther a planet is from the sun, the slower it is. Planets seem to pass each other also as the Earth keeps moving as well.
Saturn is the only planet currently visible in the evening sky. Saturn is seen in the east, appearing like a bright star, several degrees above an actual bright star, Spica.
A question remains, how can these planets “square dance” so early in the morning?
Many of us are still waking up, groping for our morning coffee (or tea). Naturally, there’s always a few out there bright eyed and chipper at the crack of dawn. God bless you very much and help the rest of us. “Burning the candle on both end “ may be a factor, but if you stayed up late because of the glorious midnight sky, that’s understandable. The sky seems the darkest and most majestic in the wee hours, when the maximum amount of annoying lights have turned off and the dust of the day has settled down.
The night sky holds a bounty of splendors through the night and into the light of the new day, for any who have opportunity and inclination to look.
New moon is on May 3.
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Keep looking up!