are lining up for a beautiful sunset conjunction at the end of May.
The best time to look is about 30 to 60 minutes after sunset. The three planets will be hugging the horizon, so a clear view of the western sky is essential.
Let Venus be your guide. It pops out of the fading twilight long before the others. As soon as you locate Venus, look in that direction using binoculars. If your binoculars are typical, all three planets will fit in the eyepiece simultaneously. As the twilight continues to fade, set the optics aside; eventually the triangle will become visible to the naked eye.
You don't have to wait until May 26th to enjoy the show, however. The planets start gathering weeks earlier. Dates of special interest include:
May 11th through 13th, when the crescent Moon, Venus, and Jupiter form a long diagonal line jutting upward from the sunset;
The three planets to scale. More May 23rd, when Jupiter and Venus converge to less than 5 degrees apart, close enough for simultaneous binocular viewing;
May 24th, when Mercury passes Venus less than 2 degrees away, giving shape to the triangle that reaches maximum compactness two nights later on May 26th.
The triangle begins to disperse on May 27th, but even then the show is not over. On May 28th, Venus passes Jupiter at a distance of 1 degree, forming a truly spectacular pair.
From beginning to end, the three naked-eye planets will be close enough to fit inside the field of ordinary binoculars from May 23rd until early June. May 26th is just the best among many very good nights.
Step outside, face west, and observe the planets. It's a beautiful way to end the day.
Credits: Author and Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA