Friday, April 19, 2002

Planets converge for western 'line dance'

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Look to the western sky on cloudless evenings the next few weeks, and on clear nights you'll see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and Mercury do a celestial line dance.

        “It's rather unusual to be able to see all five of the naked-eye planets in the same part of the sky,” says Alan M. MacRobert, senior editor for Sky & Telescope magazine. The last time the planets could be seen grouped so closely was in 1940. “And it won't happen again until 2040,'' he says.

        Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus have been visible in the evening sky this month. Mercury should join the lineup low in the sky today. The planets form along diagonal line.

        The time to look is twilight, when the sun has set and the sky is darkening. Jupiter is the brightest “star” high in the western sky. Saturn will be far to its lower right. Mars, which appears orange, will be below and to the right of Saturn. Lower, and farther to the right, is bright Venus. Mercury will appear to the lower right of Venus, near the horizon.

        All five planets will be visible until mid-May. For more information, visit under “Observing.”'


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