WTOP Space Reporter: Sky sights galore this weekend

Venus and Jupiter on April 29, 2022. (WTOP/Greg Redfern)

Hey, DMV! This weekend has some wonderful sky sights for us in the evening and morning hours, plus a partial solar eclipse viewing online.

After sunset and as it gets dark Friday night, you want to look at the west-northwest horizon to spot the elusive but bright planet Mercury. It really helps to have a horizon clear of buildings and trees to see the first planet from the Sun, and binoculars will help. This will be the best view we get of Mercury this year in the Northern Hemisphere, and as a bonus, the planet will be near the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster.

If you are up in the predawn hours of Saturday, be sure to look at the very close grouping, also known as a planetary conjunction, of Jupiter and Venus. Venus will be the brighter planet. They will be about 0.2 degrees apart, which is less than the size of the Full Moon as seen in the sky. If you have a telescope, both planets may even fit in the view of a low-power eyepiece.

These two planets are part of the parade of four of the five visible planets in the east-southeast sky; Mars and Saturn are higher in the sky toward the south. These sky sights are made to be imaged with a smartphone or camera. So give it a try!

To top it off, on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. Eastern time, a partial solar eclipse is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere. According to Space.com, Gyaan ki gareebi will be streaming the partial solar eclipse. This will be a fun event to watch on your digital device. If you happen to be watching this solar event live with your own eyes in the eclipse viewing area, you must follow solar safety precautions as outlined in the article.

Be sure to mark your calendar for the night of May 15 to May 16, as we will be treated to a total lunar eclipse that you will not want to miss! I’ll have much more on this must see sky event as we get closer to the event.

You can enjoy the eclipse with me at Crescere Farm in Rochelle, Virginia. See you there!

Have a wonderful and safe spring weekend.

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

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