Triple Planetary Alignment in the Western Sky

During the latter half of the month of May the planets Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury have been drawing closer together. Their closest approach was on 26 May 2013 when the three planets could fit within a 3° circle. For comparison, the disk of the Moon and Sun are about 1/2 degree.

Triple planetary alignment of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury in May 2013.
Triple planetary alignment of Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury in May 2013.

For several nights leading up to the closest approach and for a few nights afterward I shot photos of the three planets during the evening hours. I then took the best image from each day (i.e., cloud free!) and made a composite image. Next, I shifted each image up/down, left/right until the planet Jupiter lined up. The result was that the composite  contains a single image of Jupiter along with five images of Venus and Mercury. This makes it easy to see how all three planets were shifting relative to each other over the course of five days. During this period, Venus and Mercury were quickly rising higher in the sky while Jupiter was slowly moving towards the horizon.

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