Signs and Seasons, Days and Years

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All the evening stars together

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If you’ve never spotted Mercury in the evening sky, the next few days are a good opportunity to give it a try. Looking at Venus near the horizon and the next bright planet Jupiter, you’ll see Mercury on the line between them. It’s easy to see Jupiter. Venus sets pretty quickly, but it’s easy to see too if you don’t wait too long to go out and look. Mercury is harder, but if you look closely at the right part of the sky you’ll soon see a sharp little point of light shining out at you. As for finding the right part of the sky – tomorrow night Mercury will be about a third of the way from Venus to Jupiter. Tonight it was a bit less than that.

And then – if you’ve succeeded in finding Mercury, along with Venus and Jupiter, the other meaningful thing to notice is to look up higher in the sky, and see that Saturn and Mars too can be seen as evening stars right now. *All* of the visible planets are there to be seen. You’ll see Saturn and Mars making a triangle with the bright star Antares, with the triangle pointing back down at the others.

The evening stars together

If you keep watching this drama unfold, later in the month you’ll see that triangle flatten out, to where for a day Mars is aligned with both Saturn and Antares, the three of them all in a row as if trying to block the way so that no one can pass. And then the best part comes three days later when, with that line now broken, we see Venus and Jupiter come into close conjunction.

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