EYES TO THE SKY
November 12 – 24, 2019
Transit of Mercury yesterday, Venus and Jupiter meet on the 24th
Mercury, the smallest planet in our solar system – slightly larger than Earth’s moon – and closest to the Sun, was observed – through telescopes – crossing the Sun yesterday, November 11. Even if you observed the little planet transiting the Sun in real time, it is worth watching NASA’s phenomenal two minute time-lapse film that shows close-ups of the Sun during Mercury’s May 9, 2016 transit. Click here to view. The next Transit of Mercury visible in its entirety from our location will be in 2049.
When Mercury’s orbit takes the little planet out of the Sun’s glare, it rises as a morning star close to the east-southeast horizon. Normally elusive because close to the Sun and of low magnitude, Mercury brightens quickly in the coming weeks and rises higher in the sky before sunrise. It is furthest from the rising Sun on November 28 and continues to brighten into early December. At a horizon view location, look by 6am beginning next week, when binoculars may help, and be sure to enjoy naked eye appreciations later in the month.
Meanwhile, planets Jupiter and Venus are an alluring sight as they approach each other within the hour after sunset. Sunset is around 4:30. This week, find brilliant Venus, with bright Jupiter above, close to the southwest horizon. By next week, the 18th, Venus appears closer to Jupiter. As Venus climbs higher above the horizon, Jupiter loses altitude. Scarcely two weeks after the Transit of Mercury, on the 23rd and 24th Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction, or closest approach to each other. Brilliant Venus continues to climb into the evening sky, passing Jupiter. Jupiter will disappear from the evening sky by mid-December.
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