Jupiter and Saturn can be seen setting low in the SW during early evenings and you might have noticed they’ve been steadily appearing closer together in the sky. This will continue in the weeks ahead, culminating in a great conjunction in the run up to Christmas.
On December 21st, at their closest, they’ll be just 0.1 degrees apart. That’s only 1/5 of a full moon diameter! With the gas giants appearing this close together you’ll be able to view them under high magnification in the same field of view with your telescope.
After blazing in the NW after sunset during the depths of lockdown, Venus has now completed its passage in front of the Sun (from our perspective) and now slowly emerging as a morning apparition.
At the moment you’ll need to rise very early to catch it due to very bright skies – binoculars or a telescope might be needed.
The morning of the 19th June is particularly special as both Venus and the wafer thin crescent Moon will sit very close to each other. In fact, later the same morning the Moon will occult (hide) Venus for around an hour.
A rare opportunity to observe a Venus and Mercury conjunction over the next few days.
From tonight (Monday) Mercury will appear progressively closer to Venus in the NW sky after sunset, leading to conjunction on Thursday and Friday night. An excellent chance to see Mercury in binoculars or observe the phase of both planets in a garden telescope.
Mercury is much dimmer and more challenging to see than Venus so my advice is to use Venus as a reference for finding Mercury in your binoculars or telescope. Those, like myself, living in the north of Scotland might need to wait a little longer after sunset to see the planets (due to pervading daylight). This makes it more of a challenge as both planets will be closer to the horizon by then.
Moreover, as both planets will only be around 10 degrees above the horizon at conjunction you’ll need to get away from tall trees or buildings that might obscure your view NW. Hopefully those pesky clouds stay away too.
Have you ever seen the planet Mercury with your own eyes? It’s notoriously difficult to catch being situated so close to the Sun and often hard to pinpoint. You’ll only ever see it as a tiny disc in binoculars, very close to sunrise or sunset.
Over the next couple of days, centred on the Dec 21st solstice, there’s a unique opportunity to see Mercury as it forms a conjunction with bright Jupiter low in the south east in morning skies.
You’ll need a good unobstructed horizon to the SE to catch it. Use Venus as a guide to first find Jupiter, then look through your binoculars and you should see Mercury sitting above.
The window is pretty narrow, from around 7.30pm to 8.30pm. The longer you wait the higher Mercury will rise but the brighter the sky, as the Sun rises.