03 February 2013

Planetary Conjunction at Dusk: Mars and Mercury

Mars & Mercury
This week, you will have a chance to spot elusive Mercury in the dusk sky, as the fast-moving planet gradually slides into the evening sky for a February showcase. In the first few days of Mercury's evening apparition, it moves past Mars, which itself is fading into the evening twilight. To spot these two planets in conjunction (close encounter) on February 7th and 8th, you will need binoculars or a telescope, and a clear western horizon. The two will form a very close pair for a couple days, and then Mars will continue its fade into the glare of sunset while Mercury will race eastward, appearing higher in the sky for the middle of the month. It will be work to find these two, but a fun challenge if you have clear western skies.

The image shows the view 30 minutes after sunset. The Sun sets in San Francisco around 5:40 pm this week.

Here's a helpful short video clip from Sky & Telescope's Tony Flanders showing how to find the two planets in conjunction, and how to find Mercury during the month of February.

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.

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