Venus and Mercury Will Be on Display in the Sky Next Week—Here's How to See Them
This is the best time to see the two planets in the night sky.
Have you seen the planet Venus in the last few months? It's been shining very brightly in the southwestern sky after sunset in its brightest apparition (a time when something is visible in the night sky) since 2012. Venus has been impossible to miss, but what about tiny Mercury? On Tuesday, both planets will be as far from the sun as they ever get, making them both relatively easy to see.
Here's when and how you can see the "Swift Planet" and the "Evening Star" on Tuesday, though they'll be visible Monday and the rest of this week as well.
How to See the Planet Mercury
The smallest planet in the solar system is not easy to see, but this week it should be possible. Most people have never seen the planet Mercury, but if you get outside an hour before sunrise and look due east, you may be able to see its yellow disk low on the horizon. Higher up in the pre-dawn sky, in the southeast direction, will be Saturn, Mars, and then brilliant Jupiter.
How to See the Planet Venus
Venus is currently very easy to see, and it has been for months. On Tuesday, it will be a whopping 46.1° from the sun, so after sunset, all you have to do is look to the southwestern sky to see it shining—it's actually the brightest thing you can see by far. If you want to see something extra special, have a look in the southwestern sky after sunset on Thursday, and you may just spot a slim crescent moon between the horizon and Venus.
Mercury Is Usually Hard to Spot
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and from our perspective on Earth, it appears to buzz around our star very rapidly, hence its nickname, the "Swift Planet." It whips around the sun in just 88 days, completing over four orbits during one Earth year. It's usually lost in the sun’s glare, and it's only occasionally visible near the horizon either just before sunrise or just after sunset. Even then, it's only visible for a few days.
Venus is Especially Bright Right Now
Venus is always the second-brightest object in the night sky after the moon, which is why it has the nicknames "Morning Star" and "Evening Star," depending on when it’s visible. On March 24, Venus will reach its greatest eastern elongation, which is the night when it appears to be as far from the sun as it ever gets. Venus will be visible throughout the next month, and it will be at its brightest on April 27. After that, it will get closer to the sun before it finally gets lost in its glare and consequently disappears from view during early June 2020.
Before it goes, there's time for brilliant Venus to put on one last big show on May 22, when it will shine right next to Mercury—emerging from behind the sun—just after sunset.