Rare Night Event Featuring 3 Planets

May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013                        Keith Gleason

A unique night sky event is coming our way. Beginning tonight and peaking on May 26, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury will join together in the west-northwest evening sky. And, according to Keith Gleason, an astro-geophysicist at CU-Boulder, you’ll only have a few minutes on May 26 to catch the three planets as they dance in a very rare, triangular pattern in the night sky.

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Rare Night Event Featuring 3 Planets

May 24, 2013                        Keith Gleason

A unique night sky event is coming our way. Beginning tonight and peaking on May 26, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury will join together in the west-northwest evening sky. And, according to Keith Gleason, an astro-geophysicist at CU-Boulder, you’ll only have a few minutes on May 26 to catch the three planets as they dance in a very rare, triangular pattern in the night sky.

CUT 1 “So here’s the recipe. Go out before the sun actually sets and wherever you are standing notice where and when the sun sets. Come back to that very same spot one-hour later – not an hour fifteen minutes, not 45 minutes - but one hour later and stare at that very same spot, you’ll see Venus. (:20) Keep on looking again, a little harder, and the other two planets will also pop out. (:25) You have about 15 minutes before those then set behind the horizon and you will have lost it.” (:30)

How rare is this event? Gleason researched the last 50 years and the next 50 years of the three planets grouping together. It turns out that on average they converge roughly seven times every 100 years. But, as Gleason explains, this particular convergence is very rare.

CUT 2 “It’s the only time that we’re going to see the planets in a nice triangular shape. All of the other times in our lifetimes that we are going to see these planets grouped together they will be strung out in a straight line. And somehow a triangular shape, I think visually, is a whole lot more pleasing.” (:14)

And the best way to view the planets, says Gleason, is not by going to an observatory where a telescope covers only about one-percent of the sky. Instead, just grab a pair of binoculars.

CIUT 3 “If you use binoculars you will do much, much better in seeing a grouping. And in this particular case the three planets are going to be about 2 1/2 degrees of each other. Binoculars typically have about a 5-degree field of view and so it’s going to make a beautiful triangle pattern of bright points in the sky that will that will easily fit into standard binoculars.” (:22)

And an added bonus when viewing with binoculars, says Gleason, is you’ll actually see Jupiter as a planet rather than just a bright point in the sky.

CUT 4 “While you are looking at this through binoculars when you see Jupiter it will not look just like a point, like you see with your naked eye, you should be able to resolve it into a tiny little disc as well.” (:11)

But Gleason says, if for some reason, you can’t view the May 26 show you can still see the planets coming together in one form or another beginning tonight and lasting thru May 28.

CUT 5 “If you just like to see a regular conjunction – two planets together - Mercury and Venus are quite a bit closer together on May the 24th. They are only less than 1 1/2 degrees apart. And on May the 28th Venus and Jupiter are only 1 degree apart. (:18) So May the 26th is when all three of them come together at the best arrangement but for a period of about five days it’s going to be really nice to see these things in the evening sky.”

-CU-

 

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