This month, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will take part in a series of what Space.com calls "celestial summit meetings." The four planets will converge twice to form a "trio," defined as an instance when three planets fit in a circle with a minimum 5-degree diameter. The first such meeting, between Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter, comes tomorrow. Ten days later, Mercury, Venus, and Mars will form another. Late in the month, a thin crescent moon will join the party, sweeping past all four planets on May 29, 30, and 31. Time reports that all four planets will be visible in the early morning sky beginning today.
Hundreds of years ago, ancient celestial watchers likely would have seen such a planetary alignment as an evil omen. As recently as May 5, 2000, websites predicted disasters when the sun, moon, and five planets gathered. This time around, the cosmic convergence is bringing more attention to the belief that the world is going to end in 2012. Unfortunately, people living north of the equator will have a harder time viewing the event.