Mercury Lingers in the Western Sky

Mercury as seen from 45 degrees N latitude at 9 p.m. local time on May 7, 2015.

Mercury as seen from 45 degrees N latitude at 9 p.m. local time on May 7, 2015.

The tiny planet Mercury lingers in the western sky after sunset, still tangled in the lacework of star clusters in the constellation Taurus. The planet reaches greatest eastern elongation on May 7, 2015 at an angular distance of 21º from the Sun. Because of the angle of the ecliptic, this translates to a better view for northern stargazers who can see the planet about 10º above the northwestern horizon at 9 p.m. local time.

For southern-hemisphere observers, the planet is a little harder to see in the northwestern sky. It’s just 5º above the horizon at about 6 p.m. local time, almost directly below the orange star Aldebaran. A pair of binoculars helps you get the best look. See image below for the southern view…

Mercury as seen from 35 degrees S latitude at 6 p.m. local time on May 7, 2015.

Mercury as seen from 35 degrees S latitude at 6 p.m. local time on May 7, 2015.

 

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