Sky Spy: Venus, Mercury glow in western sky

2013-06-13T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T16:46:34Z Sky Spy: Venus, Mercury glow in western skyTim Hunter Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There is plenty to see in the western sky tonight after sunset.

If you look toward the west at 8 p.m. as the twilight darkens, you will find the five-day-old moon 35 degrees above the horizon. Regulus in Leo the Lion will be about 10 degrees higher.

Much closer to the horizon is ever-brilliant Venus, and only 4 degrees from Venus is Mercury, just above and to the left (south).

This is a great opportunity to see fleeting Mercury, which never stays in one spot very long. Mercury also never gets very far from the sun, because it is the closet planet to the sun. We see Mercury only for a little while after sunset or before sunrise.

Look above Venus and Mercury to find Castor (on the right) and Pollux (on the left) in Gemini the Twins.

Keep an eye on Venus and Mercury. Look at them after sunset for the next 10 days. Every day they will change their position with respect to each other. They get closer together until they are less than 2 degrees apart.

Mercury is the faster- moving of the two planets and slides by Venus on Tuesday and Wednesday to become closer to the horizon by next Wednesday. As it nears the horizon, Mercury will get fainter and more difficult to see.

Since both Venus and Mercury are fairly low in the western sky, any horizon obstruction or low clouds will hinder seeing them. Always have low-power binoculars available to enhance your enjoyment of these beauties.

Moon watch

The moon is a waxing (growing larger) crescent and will be at first quarter on Sunday to help us celebrate Father's Day. Sunset tonight is 7:31 p.m.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

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