Eyes to the Sky: Planets and stars on the move
The crescent moon continues to lure the eye to the west at sunset and at dusk it highlights the gathering of Jupiter, Mercury and the bright stars of the Spring Arch.
The moon's white, reflected light grows vivid as the sky fades to glowing pastel shades before darkness falls. This evening, a dynamic relationship is drawn between Luna and brilliant Jupiter to its right. Further right, Capella shines. Below, in the soft, peach-colored twilight close above the horizon around 9:15 p.m., the small but steady light of Mercury attracts the sky-gazer from midway between the two. The loveliness of the triangle created by Jupiter, Capella and Mercury deserves a last, long look this week.
Mercury will be too close to the setting sun to see by next week. Its orbit is taking it to "inferior conjunction," which occurs June 19, about a week and a half after it vanishes from naked eye viewing. At inferior conjunction, Mercury will be between Earth and the sun, the three nearly inline. When the namesake of the Roman messenger of the gods returns to our skies at the end of October it will be in the east, herald of the rising sun.
Jupiter has lost its dominance in the nighttime sky, now setting before 11 p.m. This great light will disappear from the evening sky in about a month, leaving Mars and Saturn as focal points as they travel the celestial sphere. Jupiter's entourage -- composed of Pollux and Castor above, with Procyon, Menkalinan and Capella left to right below -- shape what is known as the Spring Arch. These bright stars form an arc around Jupiter, all to vanish just after official summer begins.
To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org
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