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Great show of the planets before dawn!

posted Jul 29, 2011, 9:09 PM by Mike White
Since the end of April, four planets can be seen very close together in the North East just before dawn. This photo shows three of them, on the 13th of May 2011:

Venus is the brightest of them all, in the middle. Jupiter and Mercury are very close to Venus on either side. Mars is only one binocular field of view closer to the horizon. The photo doesn't show Mars because it is still behind the hill and the trees. Uranus and Neptune are also visible with binoculars or a small telescope, however these planets are at a much greater altitude above the horizon.

The distance between the four bright planets is not really that close, they seem that close because they are in the same line of sight from our point of view here on Earth. Jupiter is actually about six times further away than Mercury and Venus!

These four planets will be huddled together in the morning skies for a few more days to come. Each morning they will be in a different formation, since they are all on the move! Between 15-20th of May, Jupiter will start to drift away. Venus, Mercury and Mars will stay quite close to each other until about the 30th of May, when they too will finally begin to disperse. The best time to see this beautiful sight is between 6.15am and 6.45am. It is such an awesome sight, it makes it easy to get up!!!

Wishing you clear morning skies!
Mike Stapel