The planet Mercury reaches its greatest evening elongation from the sun on June 12. No matter what time zone you’re in, or where you live worldwide, the best time to start looking for Mercury (and Venus) is about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset. Look for this star-like object above the dazzling planet Venus, and near the sunset point on the horizon. Binoculars may be helpful.
By a stroke of good fortune, Mercury shines a short hop above Venus, the sky’s brightest planet. In fact, both of these worlds should fit – or nearly fit – into the same binocular field of view. Use the waxing crescent moon to locate Venus close the horizon, and then look for Mercury to jump out over Venus.
Mercury, the solar system’s innermost planet, never strays far from the sun in Earth’s sky. When this planet is visible, it’s seen for a short while after sunset – or at other times of the year, a short while before sunrise. When Mercury reaches its greatest eastern elongation from the sun, Mercury appears in the western sky at dusk – or when Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation, it’s in the eastern sky at dawn.
Whether you live in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere, the bow of the moon points in the direction of Mercury and Venus. Start your search as soon as you see the moon coming out out into your western sky at dusk.
At northerly latitudes, the moon-Mercury-Venus line goes downward from left to right. (See feature chart at top.) As seen from temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, the line-up goes downward from right to left. (See chart below.) Although Mercury is visible to the unaided eye in a clear sky, binoculars enable you to view Mercury all the sooner in the glow of evening twilight.
Around the world tonight, Mercury will follow the sun below the horizon approximately one and three-quarter hours after sunset. So look for this planet near the sunset point on the horizon as dusk ebbs into darkness.
Catch Mercury near Venus this evening, as Mercury reaches its greatest eastern (evening) elongation, at 24o from the sun.