Community ed astronomy group observing Saturn in twilight last night – Bob King
Clouds dogged us for a while last night but our group of hardy astronomers perservered and saw Mars, Saturn and Mercury. Yes, Mercury. It’s back in the evening sky, tangled up in the orange glow of dusk. To find it, you’ll need a very open horizon to the northwest.
Find Mercury low in the northwestern sky during twilight — created with Stellarium
Look for a solitary bright star hovering in the sunset glow between 9-9:30 p.m. over the next two weeks. A pair of binoculars can be a real help in spotting this elusive planet against the glow of twilight. Once you see it in binoculars, finding it with your naked eye is easy.
Mercury, the smallest of the planets, never strays far from the sun from our perspective on Earth, which makes it one of the trickier planets to see despite its brightness. Its small orbit and distance from us combine to keep it forever buried in twilight. Right now Mercury gets the nickname of Evening Star. When it rises before the sun, it’s the Morning Star.
Like the moon, Mercury goes through phases. At the moment, it looks like a tiny, nearly full moon through a telescope. Over the coming weeks, it’ll become a quarter moon and a crescent. Then the planet will drop down too close to sun to see, until it swings round the other side to become the Morning Star.
Catch it if you can. Next week the crescent moon will join Mercury for a beautiful pairing.