By Dave Fuller on 1/12/2015 4:13 PM
Marveling at Mercury Have you ever seen Mercury? Not the metal found in thermometers; the actual planet. It is surprisingly bright, but many people don't know when or where to look. This month offers the perfect time to try and spot this elusive solar system speedster.

Mercury is the innermost planet of the solar system. As such, we refer to both it and Venus as "inferior" planets - that is to say, they orbit the Sun inside of Earth's orbit (the other planets are called "superior" planets). Because of this location in our solar system, these planets never cross the sky, and they never reach opposition with Earth. Rather, the best time to see them is when they obtain the position of "greatest elongation." Yet Mercury is somewhat elusive. It orbits the Sun in just 88 days - less than a full season on Earth. Despite shining at over magnitude 1 much of the time when it is brightest, it is forever stuck in the twilight glow of the Sun. One never sees it under a truly dark sky, so observers really HAVE to be...
By Dave Fuller on 1/26/2014 11:20 PM
Slim crescent Moon near Mercury

On Friday Jan 31 of this week (see above graphic), a very slim crescent from a just-past-New-Moon will pair up with Mercury in the evening sky. Ideal times to look are about 45 minutes to an hour after sunset.  The planet is surprisingly bright, though you will need to look in what I call the "middle twilight" area of the sky. That's the area of twilight between the darker sky above it, and the brighter sky below from the already-set Sun. In that transition zone, the bright point of Mercury pops out - if you have access to a relatively flat and clear western horizon.

These types of situations are when binoculars can be your friend to see the Moon. The planet - despite having the smaller angular diameter / size in the sky, may appear brighter. Point-like objects at lower magnitude can seem brighter...
By Dave Fuller on 11/3/2013 7:18 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of November 4 thru November 10 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring. Also, don't miss this week's Eyes on the Sky video about the Moon and THREE Comets you can see: ISON, Encke and Lovejoy.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Nov 4:  Look for one day old Moon about 20 to 40 minutes after sunset (use binoculars; see this week's Eyes on the Sky video) Look at stars in Cepheus...

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.