Mercury is currently putting on an appearance in the morning sky for northern hemisphere observers, so if you’ve never seen the innermost planet then now is your chance.
Don’t hang around though because these opportunities only last a few days before the planet retreats once more into the glare close to the Sun. You may be surprised at how easy it is to spot, shining at magnitude -1.
I spotted Mercury for the third time in four days this morning and it presented a wonderful scene, lying just a few degrees from a very fine crescent Moon that it was itself a little more than 40 hours from new.
The reason why now is a good opportunity to see Mercury from our part of the world is because the planet lies higher above the horizon than it would at other times of the year at an elongation. This is because the ecliptic – the path along which the planets
travel – is steeply inclined to the eastern horizon at this time of year.
Look to the south-south-east as the dawn sky is brightening. I got my view of Mercury from the south-west of London at around 6am local time today (0600 UT).
In the evening sky, you can spot the other inner planet, Venus, which is steadily moving away from the Sun. You will need a clear horizon at the moment as it is quite low, but conditions get better and better over the next few weeks. Fir mire details of what is on view in the sky right now, see our monthly sky map.
Picture: A screen grab from Starry Night shows Mercury and the Moon on the morning of 27 October.
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