Mercury, Venus, Jupiter in Tight Triangular Tryst
A rare meeting between three luminescent heavenly bodies lights up the sky for Memorial Day weekend and beyond, and the space experts say it’s one not to be missed.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Mercury dances with its bawdy buddies Venus and Jupiter, who have been making the rounds with various planets all year. (Related: Three-Way in the Sky: Jupiter, Moon and Venus
Sky watchers with an unobstructed view of the western horizon—even those in areas of heavy urban light pollution—will be able to watch, over the course of three days, as the three planets appear to dance in a circle, in what Space.com calls “slow acrobatics,” a “celestial pas de trios.”
The hottest time to see this in action is this weekend, though there will be more to see during the week as well. On Sunday May 26 they will be in a perfect triangle.
“Such a tight grouping of planets in the night sky won't come again until 2026,” reports Space.com.
Here’s how it will go down.
The celestial events take place low in the west-northwest sky, 45 minutes to an hour after sunset, according to Space.com.
“Starting on May 24, the three planets will appear within five degrees of each other—easily fitting behind a golf ball held at arm's length,” writes National Geographic“By May 26, the conjunction will be at its tightest, with the planets forming a striking equilateral triangle spanning only 2.5 degrees. The planets will be huddling so close together that they can be covered up by a thumb held at arm's length.”
By Memorial Day, tiny Mercury will be drifting upward, but that will just bring Jupiter and Venus, the two brightest planets, even closer together, at 1.5 degrees apart, National Geographic said. A degree in the sky is about the width of one’s pinkie finger.
As May wanes, Jupiter will begin exiting the scene, edging closer and closer to the horizon, “while Venus and Mercury will climb higher in the west and dominate twilight skies by early June,” National Geographic said. By mid-June, Jupiter will be but a memory.
Here is an animation of what the dance will look like, courtesy of Sky and Telescope.