May 24, 2013
Venus, Mercury and Jupiter will appear in alignment Memorial Day weekend. Composite image courtesy NASA.
About 30 minutes after sunset this Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27), stargazers will have the best opportunity to watch real stars dancing in the sky as the planet Mercury will sweep up and past Venus and Jupiter in a celestial tango.
Lubbock citizens can watch the event at May Starwatch at 9 p.m. Sunday, a viewing party hosted by Texas Tech’s Graduate Student Advisory Council, the Graduate School, South Plains Astronomy Club and Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark. The event will be held at the Landmark, located at 2401 Landmark Drive.
Provided skies are clear, stargazers will be able to enjoy an unusual trio of planets dance across the May skies, said Collin Smith Treasurer of the South Plains Astronomy Club and information technology support specialist in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
The dance begins with Jupiter descending into the sun’s afterglow as Venus comes up to meet it, while Mercury races up to become the highest of the three planets. From May 25-27 as twilight starts to darken the three will form a compact trio that fits easily within a binocular field.
“This event can happen about every three years, but it doesn’t always happen in the evening when you can see it easily,” Smith said. “It can happen in the very early morning. We’ll get a good shot of it. Lubbock is a good place to be. On Sunday, the alignment is the best. All three planets will be the closest together and in the tightest triangle.”
See this StarDate site for a graphic representation.
Also, it will be the last time Jupiter will be visible regularly in the early evening sky until late November, he said.
Telescopes will be provided by members of the South Plains Astronomy Club. The Graduate Student Advisory Council will provide free lemonade, water, popcorn and sweets for children.