Just as the planet Venus passed close to the Pleiades last week, the smaller and more elusive planet Mercury will also skim this star cluster on the evening of April 30. The planet and cluster will be low in the northwestern sky after sunset, about 10º above the horizon in the northern hemisphere. This is a golden opportunity to spot the little planet before it heads back towards the Sun. And more remarkably, on the same day, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mercury for four years, will crash into the planet at more than 8,000 mph and end its long mission.
Solar System Observing
Articles about how to understand, find and see solar system objects including planets, the Moon, the Sun, asteroids, meteors, and comets with binoculars, telescopes, and the naked eye.
The brilliant planet Venus is just over 2° from the Pleiades star cluster, while the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, which makes up much of the constellation Taurus, is to the left of Venus in this image. The constellation Orion is at extreme left. This image taken after sunset over the Ottawa River on a pleasant spring night on April 12, 2015.
Shining at magnitude -4.1 for most of the month, Venus is easy to find high above the western horizon as the Sun goes down. It outshines every object in the sky except for the Sun and Moon. The planet moves a little higher each night until early June.Share This: