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Planets visible to the naked eye

  • Photo: Sophie Desrosiers
    Planets visible to the naked eye

    From May 3 to 17, 2021

    Mercury is presently making a fine apparition in the evening sky. Look for the tiny planet at dusk, 45 minutes after sunset, low in the west-northwest, a few degrees above much brighter Venus. Mercury is brighter at the beginning of this period, and dims rapidly after mid-month; it should remain easily visible until about May 20, before plunging back between Earth and the Sun. On May 3 and 4, Mercury shines about 2 degrees from the Pleiades star cluster. On the evening of May 13, the thin crescent moon hangs 3 degrees left of Mercury.

    Venus is the bright Evening Star that shines very low in the west-northwest, 30 minutes after sunset. Fainter Mercury is also visible a few degrees above Venus. On the evening of May 12, the very thin crescent moon is just one degree to the left of Venus.

    Mars is receding from Earth, and although its brightness has decreased a lot since opposition last October, it’s still fairly bright. The Red Planet appears at dusk about 35 degrees high in the west, and more than 25 degrees to the left of bright star Capella. Mars sets in the northwest around midnight. The thin crescent Moon comes within 1 ½ degrees of Mars on the evening of May 15.

    Jupiter is easily visible at the end of the night and at dawn: The Giant Planet emerges in the east-southeast about two and a half hours before sunrise. At dawn, it shines brightly 20 degrees above the southeast horizon. On the mornings of May 4 and 5, the waning crescent Moon hangs near Jupiter.

    Saturn is visible at the end of the night and at dawn. Look for Saturn very low in the east-southeast, about three hours before sunrise. During dawn, Saturn shines some 22 degrees above the south-southeast horizon, about 15 degrees to the right of very bright Jupiter. On the morning of May 3, the last quarter Moon approaches within 7 degrees of Saturn.

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