Over the next week Venus will be lost to the Sun’s glare. It is currently about 15° east of the Sun, but getting closer quite quickly now and becoming tough to spot in the sunset. The planet will pass through inferior conjunction on March 25th. The planet will appear in the dawn sky around mid April. When it does appear, it will spend the remainder of 2017 as the morning star.
Even when low in the sunset, Venus is worth picking up in a telescope. As the planet approaches inferior conjunction it shows an ever more crescent appearance to our earthbound vantage point. During the last days of visibility it will be a razor thin crescent, worth the effort to look.
Over the coming weeks Venus and Mars will dance in the sunset. Close approach will occur on February 2nd, with the pair about 5° apart. They will remain in close proximity in the sky for much of February, finally disappearing into the glare of sunset around the end of the month.
On the evening of the 31st, a pretty crescent Moon will join this dance in the sunset, forming a triangle about 5° across. A 16% illuminated crescent moon with make a lovely trio with the bright planets.
Only once before have I seen Jupiter and Venus this close, many years ago. Being close enough to fit in the same eyepiece field is quite interesting, particularly with enough magnification to see the moons and planet details well.
If you have not been paying attention the evening planet dance is in full swing, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all in close attendance.
This evening was the close approach of Jupiter and Venus. I set up a telescope briefly to capture the conjunction. More than a little overexposed, but you can see the moons of Jupiter this way…
This evening at sunset a nice crescent Moon and the bright planet Jupiter will be quite close. As sunset around 19:00 the two will be separated by a mere 46′, just a little over the width of the full Moon. The two should make a very attractive pair as they sit above the glow of sunset.
Keep an eye out for Mercury and Venus closer to the horizon. At 19:00 Venus will be 9° above the horizon with Mercury a bit higher at 14°. The Moon and Jupiter will be higher yet around 25°. Since Mars and Saturn are also visible in the southern sky all five naked eye planets will be visible.
A very thin crescent Moon will pair with Venus in the sunset this evening. The Moon will be about 3.5° from Venus, well above the glow of sunset, perfectly placed to create a nice view. With sunset occurring at 18:58 HST, the pair will be 10° above the horizon at 19:00 and will set almost an hour later at 19:48 HST. The Moon will be quite thin, only 1.9% illuminated and only 1.3 days old. Creating a triangle with the pair of solar system bodies, the bright star Regulus will be 2° above Venus, while Mercury will be 8° higher in the sky. Jupiter will also be visible higher in the evening sky making for a nice lineup of bright planets.
The two inner planets will rendezvous in the sunset over the next few days. Venus appeared in the sky a few days ago having just emerged from superior conjunction. Mercury will emerge quickly from the solar glare to pass Venus only 10° from the Sun. This conjunction will be quite low and a bit in the bright glow of sunset, perhaps somewhat challenging to spot.
This evening the two will be about 2° apart, and will quickly converge. On July 16th the two will be only 32′ apart, about the diameter of a full Moon. After that the two will quickly separate. Interestingly on the 17th the pair will pass through the M44 star cluster, though perhaps it will still be a bit bright to appreciate this dimmer cluster.
Late in the month this trio of bright planets will continue their dance in a set of conjunctions that lasts into September. The highlight will be on August 27 when Jupiter and Venus will pass within 12′ of each other while Mercury is only 5° away.
Just a quick reminder that mercury will transit the face of the Sun tomorrow morning. You can read full details in my earlier post or check out a decent transit calculator. For observer in Hawaii the transit will already be well underway at sunrise, making this a set-the-alarm-early exercise. My telescope and solar filter are already loaded… Are yours?