Mercury is sliding into the light of dawn this week. Currently about 10° elevation at sunrise, the planet will disappear into the Sun’s glare over the next few days. It will pass through superior conjunction on December 28th, to reappear for the first evening apparition of 2014 around the middle of January.
Today Mercury reaches maximum elongation, the furthest point it will reach from the Sun in the sky and the highest it will be above the sunrise for this morning apparition. The planet is easily visible as a bright, starlike object about 19° above the rising Sun as the twilight begins. Over the next couple weeks Mercury will slide back into the sunrise, heading for superior conjunction on December 28th.
Mercury will begin a morning apparition this week. The planet is currently about 10° above the rising Sun, climbing higher each morning. Look for a 2nd magnitude star-like object just above the glow of dawn. Mercury will reach a maximum elongation of 19° on November 17th.
This evening a pretty crescent Moon will be about 8° north of Venus. The brilliant pair will be high in the southern sky at sunset, rather hard to miss if you take a moment to look up. Take note of how far the planet is from the Sun, Venus is currently near maximum elongation, which occurred on October 31st.
Today at 01:29HST Saturn will pass through superior conjunction with the Sun. The planet will reappear in the dawn sky later in the month.
On the 23rd and 24th Saturn will be quite near the brightening comet C/2012 S1 ISON and the planet Mercury, creating an odd planet and comet conjunction. The trio will have about 5° separation. Even more odd, the comet 2p/Enke will be inside the triangle formed by the trio, probably at 7th magnitude.
It is possible to see planets in the daytime. Both Jupiter and Venus are bright enough to see fairly easily in full daylight if conditions are right. You need to know where and how to look, but once glimpsed they are fairly easily seen. It is the knowing how that makes it possible. Try these simple hints…
- Try when the planets are far from the glare of the Sun, in the first hours after dawn or last hours of the day are best.
- Clean air is necessary. If the air is hazy, dusty or smoggy it will hide the planets from view, particularly when near the Sun. There will just be too much solar glare to pick out the planet. For the same reason try when the planet is high in the sky and you are looking through much less air.
- The human eye will relax and defocus if there is nothing to focus on. This happens when looking at a plain expanse of blue sky. You could be looking right at the planet and not see it. A few puffy clouds around, or better yet, the Moon, will give the eye something to focus on, allowing the planet to be easily seen.
- Put the Sun out of sight to reduce glare. Simply position yourself in the shadow of a tree or building to get a better view.
- Pick a day when the Moon is near the object you are looking for, it will provide a simple signpost to the correct location.
It is this last hint that can be particularly useful today. Venus is about 8° degrees south of the Moon today. It helps that Venus is near maximum elongation, as far as it will get from the Sun for this evening apparition. If you can find the Moon high in the midday sky check just below it for Venus. The planet will be about a sixteen lunar diameters away from the Moon, seen as a bright star-like object.
Have a try.
Mercury will exit the evening sky this week. Currently about 10° above the setting Sun, it will quickly orbit back into the Sun’s glare. It will pass through inferior conjunction on November 1st to reappear in the dawn around November 6th.
Today Mercury reaches maximum elongation, the furthest point it will reach from the Sun in our sky and the highest it will be above the sunset for this evening apparition. The planet is easily visible as a bright, starlike object about 25° above the setting Sun as twilight begins. Over the next couple weeks Mercury will slide back into the sunset, heading for inferior conjunction on November 1st.