A Triangle of Planets!

A trio of bright planets will gather together in the Name A Star Live constellation “Virgo” in early August, putting on quite a show for stargazers around the world!

To enjoy this heavenly treat, go outside about 45 minutes after sunset each night during the first week of August and face west.  (See diagram below.)  The red planet Mars, the beautiful ringed planet Saturn, and the hot and cloudy planet Venus will fly in a triangular formation that will change from night-to-night.

Triangle of Planets
Mars, Saturn, Venus and Mercury -- toward the western horizon -- about 45 minutes after sunset on August 28

Moreover, if you have a good, clear view of the western horizon you might also see the elusive planet Mercury.  If trees, buildings, hills or other structures are in your way, try to observe Mercury from an elevated location, like a hilltop or an upper-level office in a skyscraper or other building.

Back to the planetary triangle:  On August 1, Mars and Saturn will be quite close to one another, while Venus will stand aloofly apart.  But over the course of the next week, Venus will lose its shyness and gradually move closer and closer to Mars and Saturn.  By August 8, the three planets will form a compact triangle.

But don’t let appearances fool you!  While these three planets may appear to be close to one another, in reality they are quite far apart: On August 8, Saturn will be about 951 million miles (1.5 trillion kilometers) from Earth; Mars will be about 190 million miles (305 million km) from Earth; and Venus will be a paltry 72 million miles (115 million km) from Earth.  To put all that in perspective … If you could drive your car to nearby Venus at the leisurely rate of 55 miles per hour (about 89 km/hour), it would take you 149 years to get there!

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