This week Mercury will be exiting the dawn sky, sliding closer to the Sun in our sky each day. It will pass through superior conjunction on May 27th, heading for an evening apparition beginning in the first days of June.
Mercury and Uranus will meet up in the dawn over the next few days. The pair is separated by about 3° this morning. Tomorrow morning the separation will have diminished to about 2°19′. Close approach will be on the morning of April 22nd at almost exactly 2°. On the 23rd the separation will have increased to 2°14′. Both planets will be well up, about 17° elevation at sunrise.
While Mercury is easy to pick out with the unaided eye. Uranus will require at least a pair of binoculars to see at 5.9 magnitude. The close approach will aid in finding the outer planet. Check your charts, there are a couple 6th magnitude stars just as close to Mercury to confuse for the dimmer planet.
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 15° 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 27.
Tomorrow morning a thin Moon will join Mercury in the dawn. The 6.5% illuminated moon will be a bit over 6.5° from the planet. The pair will be over 15° above the horizon at sunrise. The planet Uranus is only 4.5° from Mercury, but at magnitude 5.9 it will be difficult to spot, even with a telescope, in the bright dawn.
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 April 18th.
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 sunset this apparition. The planet is easily visible as a bright, starlike object about 15° above the setting Sun as the sky grows dark. Over the next couple weeks Mercury will slide back into the sunset, heading for inferior conjunction on Mar 21.
A very thin Moon could be seen last night. Only 1.1 days old the Moon was only 1.6% illuminated, a thin crescent indeed. A few degrees away was Mercury. I did get a couple photos with a telephoto lens before the clouds moved in and obscured the view…
This evening a thin crescent Moon will join Mercury in the sunset. The pair will be separated by just under 6°, at about the same elevation and 15° above the horizon at sunset. The Moon will be extremely thin, only 1.7% illuminated, while Mercury is shining at -1.2 magnitude.
A nice lineup of three bright planets will be forming in the sunset over the next couple weeks. There will be three bright planets, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, and a faint planet in the lineup, Uranus. Together they will nicely outline the ecliptic in the evening sky.
Tonight you can see this lineup taking shape, looking low, just above the glare of the setting Sun you might pick out Mercury. It is only 10° from the sun this evening, but getting higher each day. High above, Venus and Jupiter can not be missed, Venus at about 40° elevation at sunset, with Jupiter even higher at 60° elevation. Venus shines much brighter than Jupiter at about -4.2 magnitude while Jupter is only -2.3 magnitude. Uranus is hiding about halfway between Mercury and Venus at a mere 5.9 magnitude.
Over the next two weeks Mercury will climb higher, reaching maximum elongation on March 5th. At the same time Jupiter and Venus will draw closer, having a separation of about 9° on the 5th. The pair will be closest on March 13th, at about 3° separation. As March slips by, Mercury will drop back into the Sun’s glare and Jupiter and Venus will separate once again. Still, the bright pair dominating the evening sky through much of the month.
While the lineup is still prominent, the Moon will swing through the alignment from February 22nd to the 27th. On February 22nd a 1.8% illuminated Moon will pair up with Mercury, just 6° away. On the 24th and 25th the Moon will sidle up to Venus, under 5° away on the 25th. On the 26th the Moon will be near Jupiter, with under 4° away and 25% illuminated.
One last dance of the alignment will occur on March 25th when a crescent Moon will join Jupiter and Venus. The planets will be about 10° apart with a 11% illuminated Moon in between them. A very nice trio indeed.
Late February and much of March will be a nice show for sky watchers. Make a point to get out and look!