Sandhill Cranes soar as the moon sets as seen from Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal during the 24th Annual Wings over Willcox birding and nature festival on Jan. 12, 2017, in southeastern Arizona. Migrating birds, including thousands of Sandhill Cranes, visit the area south of Willcox. 

An amateur astronomer aims his telescope at Mars as it rises over a building on the UA Mall. Mars is coming our way and is bright enough to rival Jupiter.

Mercury is at its greatest eastern elongation (distance from the sun) of 26.4 degrees Thursday, July 12, making it a good time to view Mercury.

At 8 p.m. Mercury is 11½ degrees above the western horizon. Sixteen degrees above and to the left (south) of Mercury is Venus, which sits in Leo the Lion.

Between Venus and Mercury and closer to Venus is Regulus the brightest star in Leo. Regulus sits at the bottom of the front part of Leo which looks like a backward question mark. Leo is low in the west after sunset and is soon leaving our evening skies.

On Saturday, the 2-day-old moon sits just 2 degrees above Mercury. The moon will be a good pointer to Mercury, and both should be a splendid sight in binoculars. After you have enjoyed the moon and Mercury, look directly south to see bright Jupiter 42 degrees above the horizon.

Mars is coming our way. By 10 p.m. it is fully risen and shining in the southeast. Mars is now bright enough to rival Jupiter. Compare the two planets contrasting the obvious red/orange of Mars with the bright white of Jupiter. Mars will get even brighter in the next two weeks as it gets even closer to Earth.