Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. It will reappear in the morning sky in late March and early April. March starts out with two astronomy events in the early days of the month; the first one is when Jupiter and Mercury share the same right ascension and have a conjunction on the morning of March 4th. Mercury is a terrestrial planet. Mercury has now shifted 5.5 degrees to Venus's upper left. Venus will be there, albeit lower than it was just a few days ago. The double-ringed, unnamed crater at the center right is about 155 km (96 miles) across. The Quadrantids, the first meteor shower of the year, is expected to peak on January 4th. By the evening of Feb. 17, Mercury's brightness will drop to magnitude +1.6 — about as bright as the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini, but only about 9% as bright as it appears now. OFFER: Save 45% on 'All About Space' 'How it Works' and 'All About History'! In telescopes, Mercury will appear as a narrowing crescent. But one more event is still to occur. Although shining very bright in its own right, Mercury glows with only 4% the radiance of Venus. Before the sunrise the temperature on the surface of Mercury is as low as 100 K (-170 °C) and by noon the temperature on the surface of Mercury rises to about 700 K (400 °C). Related: When, where and how to see the planets in the 2020 night sky. It will arrive at inferior conjunction, meaning it will pass between Earth and the sun, on Feb. 25. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: But actually I should insert a slight revision here. Mercury’s Neighbors. On that night, look for a maximum of 80 meteors per hour radiating from a point in the northern sky. Indeed, durings its last two eight-year cycles, Venus actually crossed in front of the sun and appeared in silhouette as a black dot about 3% the diameter of the sun's disk. Get breaking space news and the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more! The planet is well named, for it is the closest planet to the sun and the swiftest of the solar system. It is said that Pythagoras, in about the fifth century B.C., pointed out that they were one and the same. Mercury is the second densest planet after Earth, with a huge metallic core roughly 2,200 to 2,400 miles (3,600 to 3,800 km) wide, or about 75 percent of the planet's diameter. That's why relatively few people have set eyes on it. The only source of heat for mercury is from the sun. That window will remain open through Feb. 17, giving you a number of chances to see this so-called elusive planet with your own eyes. So, the behavior of Venus in 2012 repeats in 2020, 2013 repeats in 2021, and so on. You will receive a verification email shortly. Soon after it emerged into the evening sky in January, Mercury was a nearly full disk, which is why it currently appears so bright. For observers of north-temperate latitudes this was the highest evening appearance of its eight-year cycle. While it is relatively close to the sun, it is still millions of miles from it. And 6.5 degrees to the upper left of Mercury you'll sight a slender waxing crescent moon. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Bill Dunford He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications. Mercury does not have any moons. For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, a great "window of opportunity" for viewing Mercury in the evening sky opened up in late January. New York, Mercury's Terminator The MESSENGER spacecraft captured this view of Mercury's terminator, the dividing line between night and day, near the planet's south pole on August 5, 2012. It is a special planet: Earth's sister, coming nearest to us, very much alike in size, and perpetually covered by thick clouds that make it an excellent reflector of light. And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: Space is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Please refresh the page and try again. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! It grew longer and more concave and as the resultant illuminated area continued to grow progressively larger, its brilliance grew even greater, reaching a pinnacle near the end of the month. Related: How to measure distances in the night sky. 1631: Thomas Harriott and Galileo Galilei observe Mercury with the newly invented telescope. The gas giants rotate really fast. April 11, 1960: 'Project Ozma' begins search for alien life, Over a third of Antarctic ice shelf could collapse as climate change warms the Earth, Hubble telescope captures striking image of a dying galaxy, NASA delays Mars helicopter Ingenuity's 1st flight to April 14. Could there be life? Launch off with "Astro Bob" to find out how you can spot Comet SWAN, the International Space Station, and Mercury passing by Venus! On Mercury temperatures can get as hot as 430 degrees Celsius during the day and as cold as -180 degrees Celsius at night. Space is a vacuum as well, so the only way to send heat out to the planets and other stars is through light, so the only thing warming Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury is sunlight. April 10, 1982: India Launches 1st multipurpose satellite, How NASA's Mars helicopter Ingenuity can fly on the Red Planet. We hope you will have as much fun exploring the universe with our app as do we while making it :) Shining at magnitude -0.5 (just a smidge dimmer than the second-brightest star in the sky, Canopus, in the constellation Carina), it sets more than 90 minutes after the sun, making this Mercury's best evening apparition of 2020. Beta The Interactive Night Sky Map simulates the sky above Minneapolis on a date of your choice. Dust ring discovered in Mercury's orbit, NASA delays Mars helicopter Ingenuity's 1st flight to April 14, The Mars helicopter Ingenuity is about to make history in the skies of another world, On This Day in Space! There is even a rumor that Nicolaus Copernicus — who, in the early 1500s, formulated a model of the universe that placed the sun, rather than Earth, at the center of the solar system — never saw it. Averaging about 30 miles per second (48 kilometers per second), Mercury makes  a journey around the sun in only 88 Earth days. ... Mercury rise and set in Minneapolis. If Earth were the size of a nickel, Mercury would be about as big as a blueberry. Binoculars will make sighting Mercury easy, although you should also be able to pick it out with your naked eye. Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn are aligned in the night sky, appearing closer together than they've been since 2000. The amount of the planet's surface illuminated by the sun will continue to decrease in the days to come. Make your own Mars helicopter Ingenuity out of paper with this NASA guide. Tonight (Jan. 31), Mercury will be shining at magnitude -1.0, which means that only three other objects in the sky will appear brighter: the moon, Venus and Sirius (the brightest star in Earth's night sky). One astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU), is the distance from the Sun to Earth. As for the rest of this year, Venus climbs less steeply out into morning twilight visibility, perhaps as early as June 6 (only 15 minutes before sunrise; use binoculars), though much better placed for making a sighting only a week later. Just look the same distance — 25 degrees — to Venus' lower right, and you'll come to Mercury. What's the climate like? This was known and of great interest to ancient peoples such as the Mayans. Solar System Scope is a model of Solar System, Night sky and Outer Space in real time, with accurate positions of objects and lots of interesting facts. Mercury, like Venus and the moon, appears to go through phases. (Image credit: Starry Night). Complementing this is Mercury’s incredibly thin atmosphere, which allows any heat from the day side to ooze into space before it can be shared with the night side. Ironically, as Venus bids a fond adieu to evening viewers at month's end, Mercury will be at its best, still shining bright at zero magnitude and setting nearly two hours after sundown, minutes from the end of evening twilight. And we are in just such a period right now. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers' Almanac and other publications. From an average distance of 36 million miles (58 million kilometers), Mercury is 0.4 astronomical units away from the Sun. Jupiter will pass within 0°19′ of Mercury. This, in all likelihood, will be your last view of the elusive planet this month, for the combination of its lowering altitude and its descent into the brighter sunset glow will finally render Mercury invisible in the evenings that follow. But after the second transit, there comes a wait of over a century before the next takes place. Significant Events. You’ll need binoculars to get a good view of M44, which looks like a collection of stars – both red giants and white dwarfs – that are actually about 520 to 610 light-years away. After Thursday night, the two planets will continue to go on their separate ways; Mercury continuing its steep climb upward, while Venus continues to rapidly fall downward. brings you the latest images, videos and news from America's space agency. As if three days of stargazing wasn’t exciting enough – there’s a meteor shower to look for, peaking on January 4th. In the pre-Christian era, this speedy planet actually had two names, as astronomers did not realize that it could alternately appear on one side of the sun and then the other. Without an atmosphere, Mercury loses a great deal of heat into space, rather than sharing with its night side. When Mercury begins to turn back toward the sun's vicinity after Feb. 10, it will fade at a rather rapid pace. The sidereal year of Venus — the amount of time it takes to complete one orbit around the sun — is 225 days (more precisely 224.7) and there are almost exactly 13 of these Venus-years in eight Earth years. Jupiter takes just 10 hours to complete one rotation. There was a problem. But ever since, Venus has been in a sort of "celestial freefall.". Night on … But each apparition into either the morning or evening sky is markedly different thanks to its very eccentric orbit and the various viewing angles from which we can see it. Glaring Venus will of course, stand out against the twilight sky. During late March and April, Venus soared high into the sky. Mercury will be 1.1 degrees below and slightly to the left. Earth takes 24 hours to complete one spin, and Mars takes 25 hours. The two will be visible in the morning sky before the sunrise. Please refresh the page and try again. In the evenings that follow, Mercury will slowly diminish in brightness, but it will also slowly gain altitude as it gradually moves away from the sun's vicinity. But such slight discrepancies are significant enough to deny us a view of an exceedingly rare celestial sight that occurred both in 2004 (on June 8) and 2012 (on June 5): A transit of Venus. Space Night Light – Provides soft blue glow while projecting an exhilarating outer space solar system image featuring the vast Milky Way Galaxy with Mercury, Venus, earth, Mars, Saturn and Neptune on your ceiling, wall, or floor Dusk-to-Dawn Sensor – The LED light-sensor automatically turns on at dusk and off at dawn for easy operation Also, Earth has its closest approach to the sun for the year. A year on Mercury lasts 88 Earth days. If your sky is clear and there are no tall obstructions (like trees or buildings), you should have no trouble seeing Mercury as a very bright "star" shining with a trace of a yellowish-orange tinge. By month's end it will be, to say the least, very challenging to see: only 2 degrees above the west-northwest horizon just 20 minutes after sunset. And come Thursday (May 21), the two planets will come closest together, like two ships passing in the night (or in this case, twilight). Venus and Mercury make a close approach in the evening sky on May 22, 2020. glided through the southern fringe of the Pleiades star cluster, When, where and how to see the planets in the 2020 night sky, Rare sight: Crescent Venus, Mercury spotted in daytime sky (photos), Venus and Mercury sparkle over Rome (photo), Teach your kids to code a Mars helicopter game with this NASA guide, On This Day in Space! The map also shows the phases of the Moon, and all solar and lunar eclipses. © Venus not only has been growing wider and slimmer (and subsequently a bit dimmer), but it's now plunging sunward at more than a degree per day as it whirls toward us in space. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will all be visible to the naked eye in the night sky this weekend. All of the Mercury 7 astronauts flew into space except Deke Slayton, who was deemed unfit to fly due to a previously-undetected heart condition. Mercury was called Mercury when in the evening sky, but was known as Apollo when it appeared in the morning. (Image credit: SkySafari app) This smallest and fastest-moving … Visit our corporate site. Get breaking space news and the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more! Thank you for signing up to Space. The earth sits at a comfy 150 million kilometers. On average, each year it makes about 3.5 swings into the morning sky and as many into the evening. Because it's the closest planet to the sun, it is usually obscured by the light from our star. Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. But while Venus rapidly falls, another planet is coming into view and is rapidly ascending in the evening twilight sky: Mercury. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. By the time it arrives at its greatest elongation, or its greatest separation from the sun, on Feb. 10, it will appear nearly half-illuminated. An overview of activities associated with the early phases of NASA's manned space program. Get the latest updates on NASA missions, watch NASA TV live, and learn about our quest to reveal the unknown and benefit all humankind. NY 10036. By Feb. 14, it will dim to magnitude +0.2, nearly as bright as the star Rigel, in the constellation Orion. You can also use brilliant Venus as a benchmark. Look for it about 45 minutes to an hour after sundown, still about 25 degrees to the lower right of Venus. New York, For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.View Deal. Although its mean distance from the sun is only 36 million miles (58 million km), Mercury experiences by far the greatest range of temperatures: 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 degrees Celsius) on its day side, and minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 degrees Celsius) on its night side. Also in early April, Venus glided through the southern fringe of the Pleiades star cluster, and toward the end of the month telescopes and steadily held binoculars showed it to be a narrowing crescent as Venus approached the Earth. Visit our corporate site. About 45 minutes after sunset, look low near the west-northwest horizon. On Earth and Mars it’s very similar. Messier 44 (M44), also known as the Beehive Cluster, will be easy to find late on the night of February 7th. The optimal viewing times fall between 6 and 7 p.m. local time. This happens because Venus goes around the sun an integral number of times — 13 — in eight years. Unfort… "Mercury has been known since very early times, but it is never very conspicuous, and there are many people who have never seen it at all," legendary British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore wrote in "The Boy's Book of Astronomy," (Roy Publishers, 1958). A NASA mission called MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) became the first probe to orbit Mercury in March 2011. The distance between Mercury and the sun ranges from 46 million kilometers to 69.8 million kilometers. From this distance, it takes sunlight 3.2 minutes to trave… The planet was called Mercury when it was in the evening sky, but it was known as Apollo when it appeared in the morning. Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States, running from 1958 through 1963. Time on Mercury. Currently, Mercury is visible about 35 to 40 minutes after sunset, very near to the horizon, about 25 degrees south of due west. In actuality, it arrives almost to the same place two or three days shy of eight years. Ice has been found on Mercury! Although that's mostly true, there are times during the year when Mercury can be surprisingly easy to spot. What about the atmosphere itself? But on Dec. 8, 2125, North America will be in an excellent position to watch as Venus again crosses the sun. Significant Events. Southern Hemisphere observers will get their chance to spot Mercury in late March and early April, when the elusive planet will appear to soar high into the eastern sky at dawn. Space is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. The Mercury 7 were America’s first astronauts and laid the groundwork for the Apollo 11 mission that, a decade later, would successfully land human beings on the Moon for the first time in history. And when I say "almost to the same place," I'm talking about a relatively small difference measuring a little more than a few tenths of a degree. On Mercury a day lasts 1,408 hours, and on Venus it lasts 5,832 hours. The dazzling, silvery white planet shines brighter for us than any other planet in the night sky. NY 10036. In ancient Roman mythology, Mercury was the swift-footed messenger of the gods. Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system. You simply must know when and where to look, and find a clear horizon. Close ... but no cigar (or transit). Mercury makes a complete orbit around the Sun (a year in Mercury time) in just 88 Earth days. On that night (actually just after midnight on the 8th), M44 and the Moon will pass within 1°17′ of each other, making it easy to move from the Moon to M44. This smallest and fastest-moving planet (only 1.4 times wider than our moon) orbits the sun just a little over four times per year (4.15 time to be precise), but from our moving viewpoint on Earth it appears to go around only 3.15 times. It will be thinner and much lower, sitting to the lower left of Venus. It’s important to note that the Quadrantids, while an active shower, may see maximum activity for only a few hours on the peak nigh… The planet's synodic period, or the time it takes Venus to return to the same position in Earth's sky, is 584 days, and there are five of these in eight years. One day-night cycle on Mercury takes 175.97 Earth days. More on that later. Monday, March 1 - Zodiacal Light (after dusk) If you live in a location where the sky is free of light … For the rest of the year it pulls away from us, passing about a degree north of the bright orange star Aldebaran during the second week of July, and soaring well up into the eastern predawn sky in August and September, though not quite so high as it did in March and April. On May 4, Venus reached its greatest declination north (its greatest angular distance north of the celestial equator) in its eight-year cycle, and its greatest (27.82 degrees) until the year 2239. Such transits occur in pairs, each separated by eight years. The temperature of the surface of Mercury changes from day to night. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, The next time Venus crosses the sun will be on Dec. 11, 2117, though that will not be visible anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. Rare Mercury transit, the last until 2032, thrills skywatchers around the world, Surprise! "The reason for this is that it always seems to keep close to the sun in the sky, and can never be observed against a dark background.". Mercury is called an "inferior planet" because its orbit is nearer to the sun than Earth's is. On May 4, Mercury was at superior conjunction and passed directly behind the disk of the sun from Earth's perspective, moving from west to east (or from right to left), after which it entered the evening sky. It will be at greatest elongation, 18.2 degrees to the east of the sun, on Feb. 10. Thank you for signing up to Space. Therefore, Mercury always appears, from our vantage point (as Moore wrote), to be in the same general direction as the sun. There is a highly noticeable rhythm in the motion of Venus: after eight years it returns to the same place in the sky on the same date. Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! The planet Mercury is named after the messenger of the Roman gods because of its fleeting nature across the sky. The European Space Agency launched its first mission to explore Mercury – BepiColombo – in 2018. How to see the 'elusive planet' Mercury in the night sky in February : Read more "On the evening of Monday, Feb. 10, Mercury (orbit shown as red … The hottest planet , incidentally, is Venus, the second body from the sun. It is small and rocky. Venus and Mercury make a close approach in the evening sky on May 22, 2020. For sport, try sighting the moon on Saturday (May 23). Mercury doesn't really have an atmosphere. The temperature of Mercury varies from day to night, but the planet only changes slight during its seasons. Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. One day on Mercury (the time it takes for Mercury to rotate or spin once with respect to the stars) takes 59 Earth days. Use it to locate a planet, the Moon, or the Sun and track their movements across the sky. There was a problem. Thereafter, it will spend the rest of the year sinking toward its passage behind the sun in March 2021. On the evening of Monday, Feb. 10, Mercury (orbit shown as red curve) will reach its widest separation, 18 degrees east of the sun. Mercury is the planet in our solar system that sits closest to the sun. © Interestingly, it takes Mercury 59 Earth days to rotate once on its axis, so all parts of its surface experience long periods of intense heat and extreme cold. With Mercury sitting above a nearly vertical evening ecliptic, this will be the best appearance of the planet in 2020 for Northern Hemisphere observers. On Sunday (May 24), once again, concentrate low near the west-northwest horizon about 45 minutes after sunset. Fairly close to the Sun. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. During the first half of February, Mercury will complete its best evening appearance for mid-northern latitude observers during 2020, climbing higher in the west-southwestern sky every evening. As for what happens this year, on June 3, at 1:36 p.m. EDT (1536 GMT), Venus will pass just 13.25 arc minutes or 0.22 degrees north of the sun's uppermost edge. 1631: Pierre Gassendi uses a telescope to watch from Earth as Mercury crosses the face of the Sun. Viewed in a telescope (inset), the planet will exhibit a waning half-illuminated phase. We now can see it, shining almost as brightly as Sirius, the brightest star in Earth's night sky, shining directly below Venus. Find out how Uranus and Mercury and more in January 2021. With a radius of 1,516 miles (2,440 kilometers), Mercury is a little more than 1/3 the width of Earth. Mercury Mercury — stands at superior conjunction on April 18th.Approaching perihelion, it will quickly enter the evening sky, becoming an easy naked-eye sight by month's end. A day on Mercury lasts 59 Earth days. Since Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, the temperature on the surface of Mercury is very high. Here's how to see these planets — no telescope required. In the coming days, Mercury will become more prominent in the evening sky as Venus becomes increasingly difficult to see, setting shortly after sunset. Going back to late November this dazzling world has dominated our western evening sky. It has been a great run for the planet Venus. Saturn takes 11 hours, Uranus takes 17 hours, and Neptune takes 16 hours. Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, you can send images and comments to You will receive a verification email shortly. Yet Mercury is not really hard to see. Mercury is often cited as the most difficult of the naked-eye planets to see. After eight years it returns almost to the same place in the sky on the same date. While viewing circumstances for Mercury are quite favorable north of the equator, that is not so for those in the Southern Hemisphere, where this rocky little world will hang very low to the horizon while deeply immersed in bright twilight, making the planet very difficult to see. Your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees, so approximately 2.5 "fists" to the left of due west, along the horizon, will bring you to Mercury. When three planets move into such a conjunction , it's known as a planetary trio. brings you the latest news, images and videos from America's space agency, pioneering the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.