July 27, 2017

Mercury-Spotting during the First Elongation of 2013.

Mercury as seen by Messenger during its

3rd flyby in 2009.

(Credit: NASA/JPL).

I SEE IT! Catching a glimpse of fleeting Mercury can be an unforgettable experience; orbiting the Sun once every 88 days, the innermost planet never strays far from its perch low in the dawn or dusk sky. February offers your first shot at catching the world low in the dusk as it approaches its first of six elongations in 2013. Though not the best of 2013 for most viewers worldwide (see below), this month’s elongation does offer roughly equal prospects for both northern and southern hemisphere observers as the ecliptic approaches near-perpendicular to the horizon headed towards the March equinox. And as you’ll see, this apparition will set us up for some of the best prospects for catching Mercury later this spring. [Read more...]

Astro-Challenge: A Close Valentine’s Pairing for Two Planets!

Venus & Uranus February 9th.

This Valentine’s Day weekend of February 2012 presents observers with an easy “guide-post” to find a usually elusive planet. On February 9th, the brilliant planet Venus passes less than 20’ arc minutes away from faint Uranus in what is the closest ‘planet-meets-planet’ conjunction of 2012. Both are high in the western sky in the constellation Pisces, and you can’t miss Venus shinning at a dazzling -4 magnitude, third in place behind Sol and Luna as the brightest natural objects in the sky. [Read more...]