There is a lovely gathering of planets in the west after sunset. Most people are focusing on the obvious targets of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon this weekend. However, keen eyed observers will notice Mercury has joined the party as well. I got a couple of shots tonight.
From top to bottom, we have Jupiter, Venus, the Moon and Mercury. To the right of Mercury is a bright plane. There is a major air corridor out there so planes are not uncommon in that part of the sky.
In the second shot, I got a bright plane right above Mercury. This was intentional to give people a guide to help find Mercury in this pic.
Although it looks like they are close together, in reality, they are far apart. The Moon is a mere 240,000 miles away. In reality, Mercury is about 108 million miles away right now, Venus is about 87 million miles away and Jupiter is a whopping 502 million miles away. Space is big!You can see great views the next two nights. Saturday night the Moon will pass by Venus and on Sunday night it will be close to Jupiter. Mercury will get higher in the sky each night and easier to see until about March 4th when it will turn around and head back toward the Sun. Venus is getting higher in the sky and Jupiter is getting lower in the sky each night. They will pass very close to each other on March 10th. It's a great time to keep watching the western sky after sunset!
Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.