The planet Mercury is back in the evening sky! In fact, it’s lone visible evening planet; the other visible planets appear in the predawn sky (except Saturn, which is officially up before dawn, but probably too close to the sun to be visible now).
Several in the EarthSky community have captured Mercury this week. Helio Calvalho in Brazil caught the photo above. Ken Christison in North Carolina caught the one below. As the evenings pass, Mercury will set later behind the sun. It’ll be setting 80 to 90 minutes after the sun by the year’s end. Binoculars will help out with your Mercury quest. Use them to scan near the sunset horizon.
Mercury reaches its greatest elongation – greatest apparent distance – from the sun on December 28 or 29, 2015 (depending on your timezone). It’ll be well placed for viewing for a few weeks, centered on this date.
By the way, Mercury will swing back into the morning sky on January 14, 2016. Later in the January of 2016, Mercury will join up with the other four morning planets – Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Saturn – to feature the first appearance of all five visible planets in the same sky since the year 2005.
Bottom line: We’re beginning to receive a few photos of Mercury in the December 2015 evening sky. Watch for it through the year’s end in the west after sunset. Photos and a chart, in this post.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.