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Morning planet cluster May 4, 2011

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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If you get up earlier than me (that’s not too hard to do), you might notice some strange lights in the east: 4 of the 5 naked eye planets hovering just above the horizon.

In early May, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus all line up  in a line a little less than 10 degrees long.  That’s a little less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length. They are very low on the eastern horizon around 6 AM local time.

As the month progresses, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury all bunch up together. By May 11, you’ll be able to cover all three planets with 2 fingers. Mars is only about 5 degrees from this gathering.

After that, Mercury and Venus hurry away from Jupiter, and bunch up with Mars around May 20. By this point, you’ll have to be up by 5:30 to see them all.

On May 29 & 30, the planets are all spread out in a line again, but this time they are joined by a very old Moon. Mercury is so low on the horizon by this point that he’ll be very hard to catch a glimpse of.

Saturn of course is missing from this collection.  Look for him in the evening, high in the SW after twilight.

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