Published: 2014-05-13 16:19:00
Updated: 2014-05-14 08:35:37
Posted May 13, 2014
Updated May 14, 2014
Mercury is a rare sight. It orbits so closely to the sun that it is usually lost in the glare. Evenings this week offer the best chance to see what many, even serious sky watchers, have never seen.
About 20 minutes after sunset (8:10 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. this week), look about 10 degrees (the width of your outstretched fist) above the horizon to the glow of the setting sun. Mercury will be visible for about 30 minutes before dipping below the trees and homes of most suburban horizons. Also, look about halfway up the sky above and to the left of Mercury for bright beautiful Jupiter.
Then turn to the east about an hour after sunset for cream-colored Saturn, the full moon and orangey Mars in a rising line from left to right. Saturn is particularly bright this week. It recently reached opposition, the point where Earth is directly between the sun and the planet.
I love showing people Saturn though my telescope. So many insist it’s not real or even marvel “it really does have rings!” Now is a great time to observe Saturn while it is tilted enough to see a gap between those elegant rings and the planet. Saturn’s moon Titan should be visible with binoculars, to the right of the planet. Tethys, Dione and Rhea are visible clustered to the left through a small telescope. The Twitter account saturnmoonpos can help you identify them.