Monday, January 12, 2015

Venus, Mercury and Lovejoy

Now that the storm is past us, bright clear skies have returned at night. Be sure to go out and catch Venus and Mercury dancing in the twilight. 

As show above, Venus and Mercury are nearly kissing low in the west right after sunset. Mercury is near its maximum brightness right now but Venus is about 15 times brighter. Both will be very easy to see in the twilight by about 5:20 pm. But don't wait too long as they will set soon after 6:00 pm. Keep watching for the next few nights as Mercury begins to pull away from Venus and dim, till it is lost in the glare of the setting sun by month's end. But before the show is over, there will be  a special guest as the new Moon make its debut, right next to Mercury.

As we mentioned last time, comet Lovejoy is now well placed for spotting with binoculars. It has brightened a bit to magnitude 4, so if you are off in the desert you may even be able to see it with your naked eyes. The comet has now sailed into the stars of Taurus the bull, high in the southern sky and the moon is no longer in the way as it does not rise till late. For details and a sky chart see Sky and Telescope.

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