Tonight – September 28, 2016 – first look for the planet Venus in the west shortly after sunset. Then, as night falls, look for the planets Saturn and Mars. As nighttime gives way to morning dawn on September 29, cap it all off by observing the moon and planet Mercury in the eastern sky.
As seen from all parts of Earth now, it’s possible to view four planets with the unaided eye. Venus, Mars and Saturn are up in the evening, and Mercury shines before dawn. Mercury is best seen from the Northern Hemisphere or southern tropics, though. As you go farther south in the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury gets harder to see.
Jupiter, meanwhile, is in the sun’s glare, but it’ll soon be back! More info about that at the bottom of this post.
You’ll easily see Saturn in the evening sky until late October or early November, and you’ll see Venus and Mars in the evening sky through the end of 2016.
However, the moon and Mercury’s furtive rendezvous before sunrise on September 29 is a fleeting one-day affair you won’t want to miss!
If you live at mid-northern latitudes, get up at least 75 minutes before sunrise on September 29 and look rather low in your eastern sky. Bring along your binoculars to get an eyeful of the attractive morning couple – the moon and Mercury. From North America, Europe and Africa, the moon and Mercury will fit – or nearly fit – inside one binocular field of view.
From Asia and Indonesia, the moon and Mercury will still be rather close together on the sky’s dome, though they may not fit within the same binocular field.
From this part of the world on the morning of September 29, look for Mercury a short hop below the moon.
Mercury will remain visible in the morning sky through the first weeks of October. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot the conjunction of Mercury with the king planet Jupiter, with the unaided eye or binoculars, before sunrise October 11, 2016.
Bottom line: From the Northern Hemisphere, or southern tropics, you have a good chance of catching the morning couple – the moon and Mercury – as nighttime gives way to dawn on September 29, 2016.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.