As you head home from the barbecue or the beach Monday evening, take a moment for a little planet gazing.
Jupiter, Mercury and Venus form a close triangle in the night sky Monday, and they shine brightly enough that even light pollution from a city like Los Angeles won’t get in the way of their visibility.
To find the planetary trio, wait 45 minutes after the sun has set. You will need an unobstructed view of the Western night sky. Look for the planets low in the sky, just above where the sun has set. You can find a map of where the planets will be in the sky here.
Jupiter and Venus will be shining brightly, respectively making up the left- and right-hand points of the base of this planetary triangle. Mercury, which will appear a bit fainter than the other two planets, forms the triangle’s tip.
On Sunday night the planets formed a near perfect equilateral triangle, but they are in motion, and Monday night’s triangle will be less perfect. Still, as you gaze at the sky Monday night, know you are witnessing something special. These three planets will not appear to be this close until October 2015, according to EarthSky.org.
As the website reports, a planetary trio, in which three planets are within 5 degrees’ distance from each other, is fairly rare. The last one happened in May 2011.
If you look at the same place in the sky about the same time on Tuesday evening you will see a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, where the planets will appear to touch each other, being just 1 degree apart in the sky.
To see how the planetary dance that started in late May will continue through June, check out the animation from Sky & Telescope below.