May 2013 Planetary Trio

Looking Up

During sunset on May 26th, three planets formed a bright cluster in the western sky known as a Dance of the Planets. The celestial show peaked on Sunday when the trio appeared as a bright triangle of light in the western sky beginning about 30 minutes after sunset

006The planetary trio – Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, the brightest planets visible from Earth – has been an awesome sight in the west after sunset. Triple conjunctions of planets are fairly rare.  The last time it happened was on May 9, 2011, and it won’t happen again until October 17 2015. On Sunday May 26, the triangle of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury were most compact, closer than you’ll see them again until 2021. In these photographs overlooking Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, taken from my lanai,  at the bottom of the triangle Venus is seen, Jupiter above that on the left and Mercury to the top right.

When multiple worlds appear to align in the sky, it’s called a conjunction. But their apparent proximity to each other is an optical illusion—in reality, Mercury is 105 million miles from Earth, Venus is more than 150 million miles away, and Jupiter is a chilling 565 million miles away.

While you ponder those distances think about this, the three planets are also joined by  Earth launched orbiting spacecraft. NASA’s Juno spacecraft is on a long looping trajectory to Jupiter, the ESA’s Venus Express is orbiting Venus and NASA’s MESSENGER is orbiting Mercury.

009The night sky can connect all people. It’s a beautiful way to end the day.

Aloha, Dohn

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About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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5 Responses to May 2013 Planetary Trio

  1. I had no idea there was so much human activity in space at the moment… such an interesting post Dohn, I always wish i knew more abut the stars and the sky…

  2. Clouds have prevented my from seeing any of the alignments/conjuctions this week. So, am well pleased with the pictures. Aloha.

  3. Lovely, pictures and words…

  4. Thank you Cathy. Glad we’re connected.

  5. Cathy says:

    I like the idea of connection by looking at the stars or moon – living far from family makes it comforting to know we are looking at the same sky… Thanks for sharing.

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