Not Five Planets

You’ll see things online and in the press about another astronomical thing that’s happening in the next couple of days. If you’re lucky, and you have a flat horizon and very clear conditions, you might see it. Binoculars will help.

At the top you can see the Moon. Real bright directly below it is Venus. Easy peasy.

As it gets a bit darker than this, up overhead, near Taurus and Orion, you can see Mars. Again, easy. It’s red and fairly bright.

Now for the harder parts.

Very near Venus, visible only when it gets fully dark you might spot Uranus. It will be much dimmer than Venus and slightly bluish in color. A small telescope will be a big help, but binoculars will do if you have a good finder map. (See here.) If you have good eyesight and a good dark sky location far away from city lights, you might see it with the naked eye.

Remember how a month or so ago Jupiter was RIGHT next to Venus? And then Jupiter kept moving down toward the Sun and Venus kept moving up away from the Sun? (From our viewpoint, obviously.) Well, now Jupiter is almost there, just a couple of days away from disappearing into the evening twilight. You’ll need to have a flat horizon, without any mountains right in front of you. It’s faint, but visible, near the horizon, directly under Venus, immediately after sunset.

And right next to Jupiter is Mercury. Jupiter is brighter, but if you can find it in the twilight, look for Mercury very close nearby.

From the horizon up, there’s Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars. Plus, of course, that whole Earth thing in the foreground.

Tonight we had a pretty sunset (with clouds and rain expected for the next three days) but we have light pollution (hiding dim Uranus) and Castle Peak hiding Jupiter and Mercury. (See where the peak is and then that dip on the right hand side? That’s where they are while it’s too bright to see them. By the time it gets dark enough, they’re down behind the mountain.) So we have three planets visible, two in this picture. Venus and Earth. Mars is back behind us.

Good hunting the next night or two if you have clear skies and flat horizons!

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