A rare sighting of Venus and Mercury

If you have never seen Mercury before, you may never see it again ... Unless you do it now. I watched it just yesterday, April 2nd, 2010, spotting it minutes before 8 PM local, Pacific, time.

Even in the place as well lit as Los Angeles, it was rather easy to notice it due to the fact that it was near the brightest object in the sky, Venus.

However, Mercury is so hard to spot that even Copernicus is said to never observe it, which is also a bit of a testimony to the fact that the founder of modern heliocentric theory was more of the mathematician than of the naturalist.

Indeed, while Mercury has been observed since ancient times, because of its orbit being the closest to the Sun of all known planets, its position on the celestial firmament is always in the Sun vicinity making it rather hard to observe.

These days, the first few days of April 2010, Mercury is very close to Venus, to its right and a bit below it and since there are no other bright objects in this part of the sky spotting this pair is relatively easy as long as you start watching the western horizon shortly after the dusk.

The best days to watch the pair are April 3-4, but you may still be able to do it on the 5th or 6th of April.

I have seen Mercury at least once before, but it was over 30 years ago. I was still in my elementary school back then, 13 or so years old. I might have seen it one more time a few years later, but since this was not a planned observation, I was not totally sure it was Mercury. It most likely was, or at least that was the best explanation for what I observed given the circumstances: shortly after the dusk, close to the western horizon, a yellow looking bright star with a steady shine typical of planets. Real stars tend to flick a lot.It did not look much like Venus either, not as bright, and not as yellow.

Here are some links to more information about this interesting conjunction of planets:



3. the sky map of the area the planets are to be seen.