Hunt for Sunset Mercury this Weekend

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 31, 2009 – 10:45 am -

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Up for a skywatching challenge the next few evenings? Try to spot little Mercury hanging super low in the western horizon. The innermost planet will only be 9 degrees or so above the western horizon just after sunset. That is about equal to your fists width at arms length. Luckily faint star-like Mercury will be easier to find thanks to the nearby, much brighter star Regulus – lead member of the constellation Leo. Friday night the pair will be separated by only 3 degrees – equal to about 6 full Moon disks apart with Mercury to the right of Regulus. But by Sunday evening the pair has its closest encounter with faint Mercury sitting just above Regulus – only a half degree apart – equal to only one full Moon disk apart! A very cool sight – don’t miss it. If you have never seen this tiny planet, Regulus will act as a great guidepost in tracking down your target. Remember to be patient in finding Mercury – it is considered the most difficult of all the five classical naked-eye planets to see in the sky. Tip – find a viewing location that is clear of any obstruction of the western horizon and also binoculars will help a lot in spotting it in the dusk’s glare. As an added bonus to the far upper left of the pair, will be the much brighter planet Lord of the Rings, Saturn. Good luck with your planetary hunt!

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Posted in Planets, Solar System, Stargazing, stars | 473 Comments »

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