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Your best chance to see Mercury March 30, 2010

Posted by Peter Hornby in astronomy.
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The planet Mercury, the closest planet in our solar system to the Sun, is not an easy object to see.  It’s always close to the Sun in the sky, so much so that you can pretty much never see it against a dark sky background, and it’s a small object, compared to the other major planets, so it never gets as bright as Jupiter or Venus.

The next couple of weeks offers as good a chance to catch Mercury as you’ll ever find, for northern hemisphere observers at least.  It’s fairly distant (relatively speaking) from the Sun in the evening sky, and, more importantly, Venus is in the same region of sky.  You can’t miss Venus, always the brightest object in the sky other than the Sun and the Moon, so it’s easy to use Venus as a guide to spot Mercury.

Check out this article from Sky & Telescope’s website.  Study the graphic, find the best western horizon you can and head out soon after sunset (around 7:15pm in southern California).  You’ll have a reasonable shot any night between now and early next week, after which Mercury will get too faint to be easily seen.  Your best best will probably be Saturday.

Good luck!

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