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Will we see a "smiley face" in the sky tonight?

Posted at 5:03 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 17:03:56-04

For some reason a story about Venus, Jupiter, and a crescent Moon aligning to form a “smiley face” has been popping up on the internet. The story tells that on May 16, 2020, Venus, Jupiter, and a crescent Moon will align and look like a smiling face looking down on us which is a rare astronomical phenomenon called an occultation.

The story claims that in 2008 this occurred as well, but it didn't and that's not defined as an occultation. In fact, an occultation is when one celestial object is hidden by another.

The story appears to originate in the Philippines. It was about the common occurrence of the crescent moon passes over Venus. Ten years later this story was picked up and shared by various outlets and also picked-up and shared by an astrophotography website.

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon will be in entirely different parts of the night sky on May 16th. By looking at sky charts for mid northern latitudes online, one can see that Venus is close to Mercury with no moon on the horizon.

Something interesting will happen on May 22nd which will be a rare close pairing of Venus and Mercury. If you look in the western sky after sunset you'll see Venus about 10 degrees above the horizon. Just beneath it you will see the small red dot which is Mercury. It will be the easiest time to see Mercury all year.

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