Mercury fading, but not before the Moon meanders by

Jan 19

Written by:
1/19/2015 4:11 PM  RssIcon

Mercury has just about had enough of us Earthlings gazing at it for the last couple of weeks during this greatest eastern elongation in the western sky (Mercury's furthest highest point towards the east above the horizon in the west after sunset is called the greatest eastern elongation.) But while the rocky innermost world was sharing the stage with brilliant Venus, with Mars hovering over the two, the Moon was finishing it's rounds on the morning side of our sky.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Moon on Jan 21

Now it returns to the evening, and YOU can capture this event with either your naked eye (look carefully!), binoculars, or with a camera (use a tripod).

On January 21st, the Moon will be about "three finger width's at arm's length" or 5 degrees or so away from Venus, and a bit less than that from Mercury. These graphics display the Moon's location 45 minutes after sunset from about 40 degrees north latitude. Those in Europe will see the Moon closer towards Mercury (slightly right and above it), and those on the Pacific coast of the U.S. will see the Moon closer to Venus (slightly up from the position shown here).

Mercury, Venus and Moon January 21

The Moon will be less than two days old at this time, so the VERY narrow crescent will be tough to spot unless you're really looking for it carefully. Binoculars can help you - just sweep them slowly away from Mercury (after having spotted it via Venus) - then look for the thin, crescent shape. You may even spot some earthshine, though this is often better seen when the Moon is a bit larger and higher up while the sky is darker. 

Here's a look at how the three - ahem, FOUR inner planets (Earth is there too!) appeared on January 18 close to an hour after sunset:

Family photo of the Sun's

So check these out with the addition of the Moon on Wednesday evening. Find a location with a low, flat western horizon, and starting looking about 30 minutes past sunset. Venus should be the first, and easiest one to spot. Then look for Mercury next, followed by Mars up above then the Moon near the two inner planets. 

These sights are lovely to see, and just think: If you capture this in a photo, you're photographing a family portrait of all of the Sun's largest rocky worlds - Earth and Moon included!  

Clouded out on the 21st? No problem! An evening later on January 22, the Moon will have revolved up towards Mars, and with a fairly wide field lens, the five worlds can still be captured in a single photographic frame. And the Moon will be larger and brighter then too. 

As the sky gets darker, take a look at some of the other great objects up in the night sky - the First Light Guides right here at Eyes on the Sky can help you find many of the ones visible right now. 

Tags: Mecury , Venus , Earth , Moon , Mars
Location: Blogs Parent Separator The Nightlight

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.