1989 April 1,1989 seems as good a place as any to begin chronicling the dance.Mars and Jupiter
are in conjunction. Two bright planets hanging together near the setting sun.Saturn is at opposite side of the sky. Saturn rises as Jupiter sets. This opposition happens once every twenty one years. Over the next eleven years the two will slowly approach each other, meeting up in May 2000.Venus and Mercury are also in conjunction, but invisible. They both are hiding directly behind the Sun.Soon swift Mercury comes out from behind the sun, followed by the slower moving Venus. The two rise to greet Jupiter.Late April, 1989: The Sun, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars lie equally spaced in a straight line along the ecliptic. But Venus is still too close to the Sun to be seen.The ecliptic is the imaginary line stretching across the sky, along which the sun, moon and planets all appear to move. If, for example, the sun has just set, and the moon is up high, then the ecliptic is the line from the sun (somewhere just over the horizon) through the moon and beyond to the opposite horizon. The planets will also be not far from that line. It doesn't take long to get to know where the ecliptic lies, and roughly where to look for planets.
May: Mercury reaches out towards Jupiter, almost touching her before falling back towards the sun. drawing Jupiter down behind.
Mercury is my favorite planet, mainly because it is seldom seen. It stays close to the sun. and is only visible as it swings out to the edge of its orbit, and then only for a few days, and just after sunset, or before sunrise. You have to know where to look for it, and when. And even then you need a clear, haze free skies, and a low horizon. Its the fact you have to work to see it that makes it so special for me.
A month later Venus appears, reaching out towards Mars. They touch for a while, then Mars falls into the glare of the setting sun.
Now lone Saturn takes the lead, rising into the Eastern sky. Venus hangs expectantly low in the West. She waits there patiently, while Saturn makes her lonely march across the sky. In mid-November they pass. On Dec 1, the crescent Moon lies gracefully between them.