Sight the Inner Planet Pairing

Mercury & Venus Jan 9

The two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, meet up in the dusk sky this weekend.

While I usually devote my blog to showcasing my photos of celestial events and wonders, a New Year’s resolution for me was to expand my blog to include alerts to what’s coming up in the sky. Here’s the first entry for 2015.

This weekend and for the following week (January 9 to 18) look southwest to see brilliant Venus accompanied in a close conjunction by elusive Mercury.

Look low in the southwest between 5 and 6 pm local time.

Venus is brilliant and hard to miss. Yes, that’s Venus not an aircraft!

But Mercury is fainter and is best seen at first in binoculars, as a dimmer star near Venus. Once you sight it, it’ll be easy to see naked eye, as long as your evening sky is clear.

Mercury passes less than a degree from Venus this weekend (the circle shows a typical 7° binocular field).

Here are the two planets as they appeared last Sunday night, when they were farther apart.

Mercury & Venus in Twilight (Jan 4, 2015)

After Sunday, Mercury continues to climb higher, separating from Venus, as it moves along the green orbital path shown here. Mercury reaches its highest angle away from the Sun on Wednesday, January 14 – what we call “greatest elongation.”

It then drops back toward the Sun and horizon. We won’t be able to see Mercury well again in the west until early May,

Happy planet hunting!

P.S. Visit my webpage to download a PDF of a free 2015 Sky Calendar.

— Alan, January 8, 2015 / © 2015 Alan Dyer /

New Year’s Moon

Happy New Year to all! To mark the first day of 2012 here is a view of the quarter Moon as it appeared in the early evening twilight on January 1, 2012.

The coming year promises to be a superb one for stargazing with:

• a wonderful evening appearance of Venus in March and April, including a rare passage through the Pleiades star cluster on April 3

• an array of 5 planets in the evening sky in March

• a partial eclipse of the Sun May 20 (annular if you travel to the SW United States)

• a partial eclipse of the Moon June 4 (at dawn for western North America)

• an amazingly rare transit of Venus on June 5 (North American time)

• a fine year for the Perseid meteors August 12/13

• a daytime occultation of Venus on August 13 (for North America)

• a total eclipse of the Sun from Australia and the South Pacific

• a host of fine Moon and planet conjunctions throughout the year

• and no doubt some fine displays of Northern Lights as the Sun picks up in activity toward its predicted 2013 maximum.

So there should be lots to shoot and blog about in 2012. In 2011, since I started this blog in February, my Amazing Sky blog has served up 103 posts and 14,000 image views, seen by people on 6 continents — I have yet to break into Antarctica! Perhaps in 2012.

Clear skies to all!

— Alan, January 1, 2012 / Image © 2012 by Alan Dyer