If you’re up for a weekend challenge, grab your binoculars, find a clear view down to the eastern horizon, and head out about 30 minutes before sunrise to spot fingernail-thin crescent Moon right next to the planet Mercury in the pre-dawn sky. A pair of binoculars will help you pull an image of the pair out of the brightening sky. Westward (above) this pair you will also see the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in the constellation Leo. The event favors observers in the northern hemisphere, but it is also visible in the south, although the sky will be slightly brighter when Mercury emerges above the horizon.Share This:
The planet Venus has returned to the sky at a “morning star”, shining brightly in the eastern sky before sunrise in the constellation Cancer, the Crab. Venus is by far the brightest object in the sky except for the Sun and Moon. It shines at magnitude -4.5, nearly as bright as it gets, and spans about 44″ when seen in a telescope. The face of the planet is a magnificent slender crescent shape just 18% illuminated by the Sun.
Venus is joined by Jupiter, which rises a little later and shines a little fainter. The two planets made a dramatic display in the evening sky earlier in 2015 and will now dominate the morning sky for the rest of the year. Too low in the sky to reveal much detail, Jupiter is still worth a look in binoculars or a small telescope, if just to see its fat disk and its four biggest moons make their way around the big planet. The planet now appears about 31″ across, much smaller than Venus, but fully illuminated.
Between the two bright planets, you also see the ochre glow of Mars, still relatively faint at magnitude +1.8 and just 3.8″ across. It’s far too small and distant to reveal any detail in a telescope. The planet will slowly brighten over the next 8 months on the way to opposition in May 2016. Just below Mars, closer to Jupiter, you see the icy white star Regulus in the constellation Leo, shining slightly brighter at magnitude +1.4.Share This:
Early risers can spot the planet Mercury low on the eastern horizon before sunrise in early July 2015. The planet shines at an impressive magnitude -1.5, brighter than any star, but it’s low on the horizon and somewhat diminished by the brightening predawn sky. The bright orange-giant star Aldebaran is nearby Mercury, as are the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. A pair of binoculars will help pull these stars out of the sky glow.
Mercury moves back towards the horizon for most of July and gets even harder to see. If you’re up for a challenge, have a look for the planet Mars, which will be much fainter than Mercury, just 0.1º to the north on July 16. You will need binoculars or a small scope and a clear view down to the eastern horizon to see these two small worlds.Share This: