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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Earthsky Tonight—August 1, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn after sunset

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

The western sky after evening twilight has hosted a trio of planets for the past several weeks. However, there is room for one more! Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has been moving away from the solar glare to accompany Venus, Mars, and Saturn. Horizon-hugging Mercury does not stay visible long, however.

Brilliant Venus is the easiest to spot at daylight wanes. Look for Mercury soon after sunset as the brightest “star” between Venus and where the sun disappeared (where the sky is brightest). Observers at mid-northern latitudes should not wait too long, as the innermost planet soon nears the horizon and sets just an hour after the sun. Southern-hemisphere skywatchers can plan more leisurely. This planetary pileup appears more perpendicular to the horizon, affording more time to planet-gaze.

If Mercury has slipped too low in the sky, shift your view to the other side of Venus for the pairing of Mars and Saturn. Only 2 degrees apart, they’ll be easy to differentiate: Saturn is a bit brighter, and Mars has a ruddy hue. Although Mercury will leave the scene, watch how the remaining trio of planets shift with respect to each during evenings to come.

Written by Stuart Goldman

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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