Seeing the elusive Mercury

A guide on where to see the two planets. (Courtesy of Sky & Telescope)

Greg Redfern,

WASHINGTON – Mercury, the elusive and speedy planet closest to the Sun is starting to put on its best appearance for the whole year as it nears the planet Mars in our skies.

We will have another good showing in the evening sky from Mercury in May and June if you miss this one but Mars will be out of view.

It has been said that only 1 percent of the entire human population throughout all time has seen and recognized Mercury as a planet. However, once you know where and when to look and find a viewing spot that affords a clear view of the horizon, Mercury is surprisingly bright and fairly easy to see. Using binoculars helps in the hunt for Mercury and seeing Mars which is much dimmer than Mercury.

For February, Mercury is starting an excellent appearance in the western sky that will last for several weeks, but it is best to see the planet in the next few days while it is still fairly close to Mars. The thin crescent Moon joins in the sky show on Feb. 10 and Mercury will be at its highest point in the sky on Feb. 17.

Enjoy and good luck under clear skies! Next week I’ll tell you about the record setting close approach of asteroid 2012 DA 14

See what else is up in the sky this week here.

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