While Mercury, Jupiter and Venus have been triangulating and elongating, taking new positions each night just after sunset, the days have been lengthening and lengthening as the summer solstice draws near.
In bidding farewell to this chilly, extreme-weather spring, June will see the smallest planet, that elusive one that’s closest to the sun, paying our early-evening skies a rare visit. The wing-footed Mercury, closely tethered to our star, becomes visible about half an hour after sunset, with Venus and Jupiter not far behind.
These are the last evenings to catch Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, in that order in the sky, in a straight line before the latter plunges below the horizon. These three planets won’t be seen again together until 2015, according to Earthsky.org. By fitting inside a five-degree-diameter circle, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury formed a planetary trio earlier this month before their orbits pulled them apart.
The most spectacular visions occurred over the past week, when the three dancing planets wove in and around each other in various formations, ending in a small triangle over Memorial Day weekend. (Related: Mercury, Venus, Jupiter in Tight Triangular Tryst)
The three can still be spotted, albeit in an elongated line, with Jupiter barely visible just above the horizon, occasionally lost in the sunset glow. However, stay tuned over the month, astronomers say, because Mercury and Venus will put on a show as June wears on. The two neighboring planets that reside between Mother Earth and the sun will pull closer and closer together until they form a double beacon.