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Thursday, May 23,2013

Rare planetary cluster visible this weekend

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will form trio of planets in the evening sky

by Sam Inglot

Thursday, May 23 — The cosmic orbits of three planets will appear to be huddled together in the night sky, creating a planetary spectacle that won't happen gain for 40 years. For about a week, starting this weekend, amateur astronomers and experienced stargazers alike will get to see Mercury, Jupiter and Venus in a rare formation.


From Friday through Wednesday, starting about 30 minutes after sunset, the three planets will be visible to the naked eye in a cluster low in the west-northwest sky. There won’t be another evening cluster of planets like this again until September 2040, according to a press release from the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University. So, unless you’re cool with waiting another 37 years to see it, this weekend will be your best chance to see the astronomical phenomenon.


But if you’d like some guidance in finding the planets from a prime location, volunteers and staff from Abrams will be on top of the parking lot immediately behind the planetarium from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.


If you look for the planet cluster on your own, the folks at the Abrams say you should look for the planets 30 to 35 minutes after sunset low in the west-northwest portion of the sky. Binoculars or a telescope will help.


The grouping of the planets will change from night to night because of the planets’ orbits around the sun. Oh, and don’t forget about Saturn. The ringed planet will also be visible with a telescope this weekend in the southeastern sky during the same five-night span.


Abrams Planetarium

755 Science Rd, East Lansing

(517) 355-4672

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