2013 Dance of the Planets Jupiter, Mercury and Venus: How and When to Best View the May 24 Peak
By Jenalyn Villamarin | May 24, 2013 9:55 AM EST
Get ready to view the marvelous 2013 Dance of the Planets phenomenon when Jupiter, Mercury and Venus group together in the night sky. The peak which begins on Friday, May 24, will show the three planets assembling at the low west-northwest portion of the sky.
Officials from "Sky & Telescope" confirmed that the three planets will fall into a conjunction circle 5 degrees wide on Friday. "Here's a beautiful chance to see three planets all together. The view should be best about 30 to 45 minutes after sunset and think photo opportunity. Set up a camera on a tripod, zoom to the max and try different time exposures," Alan MacRobert, the senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, said in a statement.
To have a best view of the 2013 Dance of the Planets, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggests that viewers must step outside approximately 30 to 60 minutes after the sun goes down. Then, look at the west direction and towards the horizon with Venus acting as the brightest point of reference.
On Sunday, May 26, the three planets will group closer into a 2.5-degree circle and the Jupiter-Venus conjunction occurs on the evening of May 27, Monday. Afterwards, Jupiter will begin to lower down in the sky until it completely vanishes from view in the early days of June.
As Jupiter fades away, Mercury will rise higher than Venus for its best night display this year and its peak will occur on June 7. Planet Mercury will also fade away like Jupiter as it sinks back behind the horizon while Venus will continue to stand out vibrantly as the "Evening Star" for the rest of 2013.
The three planets are currently visible with the naked eye which allows the amateur spectators to examine the rare phenomenon in the next peaking days to come. Of course, use of binoculars or telescopes will provide a better view of the "dancing of the planets."
According to the Sky & Telescope report, the dancing of the planets may appear really close when viewed from Earth during its peak week but in reality, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will be approximately 105 million miles, 150 million miles and 565 million miles far away from Earth, respectively.
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