Hot, steamy Venus and fleet-footed Mercury don’t often canoodle, but these neighbors are hunkering down for a weekend-long getaway edging the horizon.
In a rare near-conjunction, the sky’s brightest planet will cozy up to much more elusive Mercury, the first planet in the solar system. Normally difficult to see due to its size and proximity to the sun, Mercury will be hard to miss as Venus, the next-door neighbor it shares with Earth, sidles up next to this planet named after the fleet-footed messenger god of Roman times.
Mercury is bright in its own right, notes Space.com. It has slowly been catching up to Venus since January 5, but the big “quasi conjunction,” as Universe Today calls it because of Mercury’s impending retrograde motion, is just after sunset on January 10. Look toward the southwestern horizon very soon after sunset, says the astronomy blogger AstroBob. Venus’s proximity do the rest and point the way, Space.com says.
“After you've spotted Venus in evening twilight, look just to its right for Mercury, assuming you live north of the equator,” instructs Space.com. “If you live south of the equator, look below and to the left of Venus.”
The two will remain in this position through the weekend. Nearby, above Venus and to the left, you might also catch a glimpse of the Red Planet Mars.
“Be sure to circle January 10 on your calendar,” says Earthsky.org. “That’s when Mercury and Venus meet up to showcase their closest coupling on the sky’s dome until May 13, 2016. The width of your little finger at an arm length will cover over both worlds.
If you don’t catch it on January 10, never fear.
“Keep in mind, however, that these two worlds will still be plenty close together for a good week before and after their closest showing on the evening of January 10,” Earthsky.org assures us. “In other words, if you have binoculars, aim them at Venus to reel in Mercury!”