Eyes to the Sky: Mercury, Venus and Jupiter mix it up


All eyes west during the luminous evening twilight, from about 8:45 to 9:20, tonight and into the week ahead. An extraordinary gathering of planets, that look like stars, is in progress close to the west-northwest skyline. A dynamic threesome, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus, which is also known as the Evening Star, appear in a different relationship to each other every day.

Planet Jupiter is closer to the horizon each evening; it sets earlier every day and will soon disappear from view. Venus will be higher above the horizon each evening and has been joined by Mercury, also climbing.

Venus is by far the brightest of the three, with Jupiter next, then Mercury. On a magnitude scale, where the smaller the number, the brighter the planetary body, Venus is now -3.9 magnitude (m), Jupiter is
-1.9m and Mercury -0.9m. Compare these to other current magnitudes: Sun -26.87m, moon -8.86m and Saturn .028m.

This evening, Mercury appears to the upper right of Venus and Jupiter to the upper left of the Evening Star. By tomorrow, the three are predicted to form a tighter right angle triangle. Sunday promises to reveal the closest grouping, an equilateral triangle, Mercury uppermost. On the 27th, find Jupiter to the left of Venus forming the base of an elongated triangle, Mercury above. Jupiter drops below and dazzlingly close to Venus on Tuesday, separated by 1 degree! Come Thursday, the planets have reconfigured to form a diagonal line, Jupiter nearest the horizon.

The Full Flower Moon occurs at 12:25 a.m. tomorrow, essentially full tonight. Also known as the Corn, Flower or Milk Moon, it rises in the southeast at 7:56 tonight just before sunset in the west-northwest at 8:16.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org


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