May 11th is just the beginning. Throughout the month, the quartet of worlds will rearrange themselves on a daily basis, forming different shapes in the pre-dawn sky.
On May 13th, for instance, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter form a bright celestial triangle–almost equilateral. On May 20th, a new triangle will appear. This time the vertices are Mars, Venus, and Mercury. Observing tip: Mars is not as bright as the others. Binoculars may be required to help you find and fully appreciate the red planet in morning twilight.
The show comes to an end on May 30th when an exquisite crescent Moon joins the four planets for a Grand Finale–five heavenly lights dotting the eastern sky all at once.
Mercury is visible to the lower right of Venus, about the same distance as Venus is to Jupiter. It isn’t nearly as bright, but its proximity to Venus will help you find it. Finally, Mars is about twice as far to the lower left of Jupiter. It’s so low and faint that it will be difficult to see, but binoculars may help.
The astronomical phenomenon is unlikely to occur again before 2040.