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Mercury and Venus close in pre-dawn sky

Friday - 7/18/2014, 11:49am  ET

chart (Courtesy Sky Safari)
Click for a larger version to see where to locate Venus and Mercury in the sky. (Courtesy Sky Safari)

WASHINGTON -- Ever seen the planet Mercury? It's always tough to spot the planet closet to the sun as it is never very far from the sun.

Mercury is surprising bright to people once they actually see the golden-yellow planet and know it is Mercury. It has been said that less than 1 percent of humanity has seen and recognized Mercury as a planet.

Over the next few days you'll have your chance to join this exclusive club, as Mercury and Venus are fairly close to one another in the pre-dawn sky.

Your best chance to see the planetary pair is to find a northeast horizon free of trees and buildings and use the chart above.

Find Venus first. It's bright and easy to spot. Binoculars can help you but aren't required.

Once you have Venus zeroed in, look to the lower left along a slight diagonal. You should see Mercury less than a fist width from Venus.

You can start looking after 5 a.m. and the chart shows the sky in Virginia at about 5:20 a.m.

Try your hand at photographing the scene. A tripod and DSLR work best with fast shutter speeds.

Follow my daily blog and Twitter feed to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at skyguyinva@gmail.com.

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