If the clouds clear for Mother’s Day, be sure to take a peek in the western sky after sunset. You will be treated to a beautiful sky scene involving the crescent Moon, Jupiter and brilliant Venus. Jupiter will be below the crescent Moon and Venus will be to the lower right of Jupiter, closer to the horizon.
The view will be enhanced if you can find a clear western sky view free of trees, buildings and bright lights. If you have binoculars they will help you see details on the Moon and quite possibly the four main moons of Jupiter when it is dark. To the left of the Moon and Jupiter you might also see a twinkling red star. This star is Betelgeuse, a red giant star in the winter constellation of Orion the Hunter.
As the sunsets progress through the month take a glimpse each night if you can to see how Jupiter and Venus are getting closer to one another. Jupiter is moving lower each night while Venus is rising higher. Towards the end of the month these two bright planets will be joined by a third planet, Mercury.
Such a triple planet appearance, especially involving bright planets is fairly rare. I’ll have more on this dazzling display as we get closer to the main event.
Enjoy the sky show and try taking some digital pictures by placing your camera on a tripod and taking a few exposures. This will give you a pretty record of the movement of the planets this month. Follow my daily blog to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.