The planet Mercury is starting an evening apparition. The planet should become visible this week just above the fading glow of the setting Sun as a magnitude -1 object. Currently about 10° from the Sun it will rise higher each evening, reaching a maximum elongation of 24° on June 12th.
Mercury will join Venus and Jupiter in the sunset making for a series of planetary conjunctions over the coming month.
Today Mercury passes through superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun as seen from the Earth. The planet will appear in the sunset near the end of the month, reaching maximum elongation on June 12th.
Continue reading Mercury at Superior Conjunction…
Venus is currently beginning an evening apparition. This evening the planet should be visible about 10° above the setting Sun. At magnitude -4 it should be easy to spot with a good western horizon. The bright planet will spend the remainder of 2013 in the evening sky, with maximum elongation occurring on Oct 31st.
Tonight also features a pairing with a very thin crescent Moon. The Moon will be a mere 1.3% illuminated and be located 2° south of Venus. A very nice pairing indeed!
Look forward to a number of planetary conjunctions in the coming months. With Jupiter approaching solar conjunction and Venus leaving, the two will cross paths nicely.
Today the planet Saturn will pass through opposition, directly opposite the Sun in our sky. The planet will be well placed for observation all night long, rising at sunset, transiting at midnight, and setting at sunrise.
During opposition the planet and rings will be slightly brighter than normal, an effect known as the opposition effect. The effect is most notable in the rings where the apparent brightness can increase by 30%. The effect is a combination of two factors, shadow hiding and the retro-reflective properties of the ring particles.
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 May 11th, to reappear for an evening apparition around May 20th.
Today Mars will pass through superior conjunction, passing behind the Sun from our vantage point on Earth. During this time the red planet will be lost to view, vanishing from the evening sky, but reappearing in the morning sky during the last days of May.
While the Sun blocks our direct view of Mars the probes we currently have on and around Mars will suffer communications interference. For a few weeks mission planners at NASA place the various orbiters and rovers into a reduced communications routine. No commands will be sent to the spacecraft and only basic status updates sent back. This is nothing new, all Mars missions have had to deal with superior conjunction every two years. Once the red planet is clear of the Sun normal mission activities will resume.
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 28° 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 May 11th.
Continue reading Mercury at Maximum Elongation…
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 28° on March 31st.
Tomorrow morning, March 10th, the planet will be just 2° below a razor thin Moon. The Moon will be about 1.7% illuminated and will rise at 05:38HST, just 14° and about and hour ahead of the Sun.
Today the planet Mercury passes through inferior conjunction, passing between the Sun and the Earth. In a week or so the planet will again be visible in the dawn sky, climbing higher each day. Maximum elongation will occur March 31st.
Continue reading Mercury at Inferior Conjunction…
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 March 4th to reappear in the dawn around March 10th.