Backyard Observatory

See Mercury, Venus, Mars & the Moon Lined Up Together The Next Few Nights

Just after sunset, you can see the inner planets and the moon getting together.

May has not been short on opportunities to see beautiful sights in the night sky. Over the next couple of nights, you'll get yet another chance to marvel at the cosmos as Mercury, Mars, Venus, and the moon are all simultaneously visible after dusk.

On the nights of May 13-15, you can spot all three planets and the moon in a relatively close formation in the western sky just after sunset. It's a rare opportunity to see all of the inner planets and the moon at the same time. Though, to be fair, one of the inner planets is Earth and, if you have your eyes open, that one is kind of hard to miss. 

Less easy to spot are Venus, Mars, and, particularly, Mercury. As we've noted before, May is a good month for viewing Mercury. Due to our positioning in the solar system, Mercury can be a little tricky to spot. It's always near the sun and never rises too high above the horizon. It is often lost in the sun's light during the brief period it's above the horizon just before sunrise or after sunset. 

Right now, Mercury is visible low in the western sky just after sunset. That's when you want to go out to look for these planets. You'll have to look even lower in the sky to spot Venus, which is just barely above the horizon. So, you'll want to be stargazing from somewhere with a clear view along the western horizon so that Venus or even Mercury isn't obscured by trees or tall buildings. 

You'll spot Venus shining brightly near the horizon, with Mercury about the brightness of a first-magnitude star above it. Even further up in the sky, you'll see red Mars. Those planets will be close together for a while, but over this stretch of days, you'll be able to see them along with the crescent moon. A graphic at EarthSky shows where the moon will sit from May 12-15 if you want to use the moon as a guide to locate the planets. For the couple of nights after May 15, as noted by NASA's monthly What's Up video, you'll still have a great view of the other three planets. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners, the best meteor showers of 2021, or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.
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