Mercury And Mars Twist It Up At Dusk

Mars and Mercury have a quick tete-a-tete tonight Feb. 7 and Friday Feb. 8 low in the western sky in the direction of sunset. The scene shows the sky about 1/2 after sunset at which time Mercury will be about 8 degrees high. That’s just shy of one fist held at arm’s length against the sky. Created with Stellarium

It’s a long shot for some, but if you’ve got a wide open western horizon and clear sky tonight (Feb. 7) and tomorrow, you can watch a very close conjunction of Mercury and Mars. Mercury is just beginning its trek into the evening twilight, so it’s still low and soaked in solar glare. That will change next week when the planet climbs farther from the sun and becomes considerably easier to see.

Mars has been hanging around in twilight for months. Being on the faint side, it’s been a binoculars-only planet for many weeks. Mercury shines two magnitudes brighter at -1 and should just be visible with the naked eye in the darkening sky. Just the same, I’d bring binoculars if I were you. Scan a little ways above the west-southwest horizon about 30 minutes after sundown to locate Mercury. Once you see it, you’ll spot Mars about 3/4 degree (1.5 moon diameters) to its upper left tonight and 1/2 degree to its lower left Friday evening.

Good luck!

11 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    I hope that this is a little premature but some say that Comet Bressi may be showing signs of slowing down.By some estimates, in a couple days it may have faded up to 2 magnitudes. I hope that it only had a temporary outburst.

    1. astrobob

      Yes, the comet’s outburst appears to be winding down. It’s faded to near 11th magnitude again.

  2. Hi there, Mr. King! I enjoy your column, much as I did reading Walter Scott Houston’s monthly column in S@T way back then… Say, I have a pair of binoculars ( 8×40 Nikon Talon ) that I picked up at a pawn shop, and it seems they need to be re-collimated. Do you have any suggestions as to where this could be done? Thanks, Daniel

    1. astrobob

      Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for your kind words about the blog. I used to read Walter Scott Houston religiously when he wrote for Sky and Telescope. Got to meet him once, too. He was very big on getting outside and observing. As for collimation, I don’t know who you’d bring them to for collimation, but you can do it yourself using the collimation screws on your binoculars. I found this how-to video (poor video quality but the fellow points out how to look for the screws) at :
      You can also check out this blog:×50-wa.html

      If you do a search on Google for binocular collimation, you’ll find lots of other sites. Good luck!

  3. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Thanx for the update Bob, a very close conjunction. I went near sea (where i have clear horion at W) with all gear but there was a bank of clouds. Let’s hope for next days. On Monday Moon joins the conjunction.

    1. astrobob

      Cool that you went to a good spot to watch. Yes, hopefully Monday will be better. Mercury will be higher up too.

      1. caralex

        We had a beautiful clear sky today, after yesterday’s epic snowstorm, so I made sure to look for Mercury and Mars after sunset.

        I spotted Mercury easily, shining bright and yellow in the dusk glow. Mars was a bit more difficult – I had to wait for nearly an hour after sunset to see it, but with binoculars, I soon did. Despite its distance, it still had a red hue, but the difference in brightness between it and Mercury were very noticeable – the little guy outshining the bigger guy!

        1. astrobob

          Good going Carol. Way to get out to take advantage of a clean, clear sky. We’ve had too many clouds and now a snowstorm coming for our region. How did you fare with snow?

      2. Giorgio Rizzarelli

        Yesterday at last we had an isolated day of clear weather, an excellent weather. I went on seashore to see the couple. I confirm fully your prediction, Mercury was very easily visible at naked eye (I realized that the -1 magnitude which he has now fo his gibbous phase is almost like Sirius!).

        Yes also here Mars, although its 1 magnitude, requested binoculars because of the dusk light or, when lower, for the mist present almost always over the sea – actually I saw him, together with Mercury, in the 9×50 finder of my C8 scope. Nice seeing together our two smaller (non-dwarf) planets, with Mars indeed appearing clearly fainter because of its distance this period. Mars exhibited a remarkable red color contrast respect Mercury, also because he was more low, setting, as proved by its reddening as minutes passed.
        The color contrast of the M&Ms, progressing as Mars went lower, is evident also in a photo I got with moderate tele-lens, I will send you the pics by email.

        In the scope himself the planets had already too much angular distance to be seen together, and there was much turbulence because of low altitude, but I could notice Mercury’s phase (at least, that it wasn’t full).

        Seeing and transparency were however very high, at high altitude, as I discovered when using Jupiter to align. Jupiter was exceptionally almost free of turbulence, showing clearly details on equatorial belts. A you know in this month Jupiter is high at dusk, and four our climate this can mean less wind.

        We also afterwards went in country to see Orion nebula and some clusters in Dog (starting with the marvellous M41 you quoted in another blog), before the clear weather converted rapidly in overcast and snow.

Comments are closed.