2016: Mercury’s Autumn Morning Appearance

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The speedy planet Mercury makes a  predawn appearance  in the eastern morning sky during late September. Likely  the best date to view Mercury is on September 29, 2016 when the moon appears below it as the chart shows above.  The chart above shows the pair at about 50 minutes before sunrise as seen from the Chicago area.  Find a clear eastern horizon.  At this time Mercury appears about 8 degrees above the eastern horizon, immediately above a thin crescent moon.

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 The cycle begins when Mercury passes between the earth and sun (inferior conjunction) on September 13.  It rapidly rises into the morning sky.  The chart above shows the rising time of Mercury, the moon, Jupiter and Spica compared to sunrise.  Mercury rarely appears in a dark sky.  It reaches its greatest separation from the sun (greatest elongation), shown as GEW on the chart, and then descends back into bright twilight until it passes on the far side of the sun at superior conjunction on October 27.

On September 29, the moon rises at about the same time as Mercury and its view in the sky is depicted at the top of this article.

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On October 11, Jupiter and Mercury rise at the same time, at the beginning of Nautical twilight, the time when the horizon can be distinguished.  This chart shows that they less than one degree apart.  This chart is calculated for 30 minutes before sunrise when the sky is moderately bright.  Use binoculars to locate the planets.

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Mercury is a difficult planet to locate.  At this greatest elongation, it is only 18 degrees west of the sun, yet the angle the plane of the solar system makes with our horizon makes Mercury easily spotted in bright twilight.  As the inner most planet, Mercury is always near the sun.  The chart above shows Mercury at greatest elongation along with the its imaginary orbit.

The September morning sky provides a view of Mercury and the reappearance of Jupiter after its Epoch Conjunction with Venus.

Our images and charts collections are available here –> http://goo.gl/Sfp1ur

2016: August 27, Venus and Jupiter

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Venus and Jupiter in close conjunction this evening as seen from the Chicago area.  Click the image to see the separation between the planetary pair.

Click here for more information about the Venus-Jupiter Epoch Conjunction.

Our images and charts collections are available here –> http://goo.gl/Sfp1ur

2016: August 22, Venus, Jupiter, Mars & Saturn

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Just 5 days before the Epoch Conjunction of 2016, Venus and Jupiter shine from the western sky this evening as seen from the Chicago area on an unseasonably cool and clear evening.  Tonight pair is 5 degrees apart.   (See this article for more details.)

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Meanwhile Mars, Antares, and Saturn appear near each other in the southwest.  Mars is 2 degrees  from Antares and 4.5 degrees from Saturn.  Watch Mars pass Antares and Saturn this week.

2016: August 16, Venus and Jupiter

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Just 11 days before the Great Venus-Jupiter Epoch Conjunction of 2016, Venus and Jupiter shine from the western sky this evening as seen from the Chicago area. (See this article for more details.) Tonight the pair is 11 degrees apart and closing rapidly.  Venus is very low in the western sky at about 40 minutes after sunset with Jupiter to its upper left.

2016: August 15, Venus and Jupiter

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As Venus emerges from the sun’s brilliant glare, it is 12 days before the Venus-Jupiter Epoch Conjunction of 2016 with the two appear to pass fractions of a degree apart.  (See this article for more details.)  Tonight Jupiter and Venus are 12 degrees apart.  Mercury is nearly in between them.  It is rapidly disappearing into the sun’s glare.  Mercury appears in the morning sky, making its morning appearance of the year in late September and early October.

The chart above shows the planets at 8:30 p.m. CDT as seen from the Chicago area.  For your local circumstances, look west about 40 minutes after sunset.  Venus is very low in the western sky.  Binoculars may be need to first locate it.  It is easily spotted without optical aid once it is located.  Jupiter is the bright star to the upper left of  Venus.  Locate Mercury with binoculars.

2016, August 6: Five Planets

This evening five planets appear in the west and southern sky, along with the moon as seen from the Chicago area.

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With a very good western horizon, Venus appeared low in the bright colors of twilight.  First found with binoculars, Venus was easy to see without optical aid.  As the sky darkened Mercury was visible through binoculars but not without them.  Jupiter was higher in the sky with the crescent moon farther south.

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Farther to the south, Mars and Saturn were easy to locate without optical help.

Look during the next few evenings as Mercury is beginning a rapid descent back into the sun’s glare.

2016, August 4: 5 Planets in Evening Sky


During August 2016 the five naked eye planets can be seen in the south and western sky, although binoculars and a clear western horizon are needed to make the initial observations of Venus and Mercury..  Venus is slowly emerging from the sun’s glare.  The chart above shows the planets on the evening of August 4, because the moon will help us locate Mercury and Venus.  Locate a clear horizon looking west.  Venus stands about 3 degrees above the western horizon.  While it is bright in the twilight, binoculars may be needed to first locate it.  A thin crescent moon appears 10 degrees to the upper left of Venus, with Mercury  2 degrees to the upper right of the Moon.  Jupiter is higher to the upper left of the moon (14 degrees).  Saturn and Mars are in the southern sky, near the star Antares.

The five planets can be seen throughout early to mid-August before Mercury disappears into the sun’s glare.

Here is our Youtube video explaining the visibility of these planets.

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