Sunday, March 13, 2011


Hey Space Placers!

Starting tonight (the 13th) and lasting through next week is your best chance to view the elusive planet closest to the Sun, Mercury. It has been estimated that less than 1% of the ENTIRE human race has ever recognized Mercury when seen in the morning or evening sky. The reason for this is simple - Mercury, although bright, is never very far from the horizon or in dark skies.

What makes this week a GREAT week for seeing this planet is twofold. First, Mercury will be keeping much brighter Jupiter company in the sky which will make finding Mercury pretty easy. Second, on the 17th the MESSENGER spacecraft goes into orbit around the planet - a first in spaceflight and planetary exploration history. See

To see Jupiter and Mercury you will need to find a view of the western horizon that is free of buildings and trees. After the Sun goes down, wait about 30 minutes and start looking for a bright "star" in the west - to the left of where the Sun set. As it gets a bit darker you should see Jupiter and depending on the date - see the diagrams below - Mercury. I viewed both last night (the 12th) with relative ease. Monday andTuesday the two planets will be at their closest in the sky even though they are millions of miles apart. See

I may have a surprise for you later this week......

Let me know if you are successful in seeing this "dynamic planetary duo".

Twilight view, looking low

Good luck!

Sky Guy in VA

No comments:

Post a Comment