2018, Summer: Evening Planet Parade: Five Bright Planets Visible During One Evening

For about a month near the summer solstice, five planets are visible during the early evening, but they are not easily visible simultaneously from mid-northern latitudes.  As the sky darkens a parade of planets extends across the sky from brilliant Venus in the west to Mars in the southeast. The “X” factor of seeing 5 planets simultaneously is Mercury. It reaches its greatest elongation on July 12, although Mercury is visible throughout its apparition.

For more southerly locations in the United States and farther southern latitudes, see this article:  2018:  Five Planets Visible at Once

Here’s how to look for the five planets:

June 16, 2018:  Start looking for Mercury early it its apparition, although the rising time for Mars is much later.  From an observing location with a clear horizon, locate the speedy planet Mercury 30 minutes after sunset. Mercury sets 63 minutes after sunset, 15 minutes before Nautical Twilight (sun’s altitude is -12°).  Mars rises in a dark sky nearly 3 hours after sunset.  At 30 minutes after sunset on this evening, Venus is 25° to Mercury’s upper left.  The waxing crescent moon (3.3 days old) is 7.9° beyond Venus.

July 2:  Again with binoculars first locate Mercury 10° up in the west-northwest 30 minutes after sunset with brilliant Venus 16.6° to Mercury’s upper left.  Regulus is 8.1° beyond Venus.  Mars touches the east-southeast horizon 25 minutes after Mercury sets and 15 minutes before the end of twilight.

July 12: At sunset, Mercury is 13° up in the west-northwest.  Thirty minutes later, it has an altitude of only 8.5° with brilliant Venus 16.4° to its upper left.  Venus is 3.4° beyond Regulus.  Mercury sets 78 minutes after sunset and Mars touches the southeast horizon at the same time.  Locate Mercury, then wait until Mars clears the east-southeast horizon.

July 17: The best evenings for seeing all five planets are around this date, but you’ll need optical assistance.  Thirty minutes after sunset, dimmer Mercury is 5.1° above the horizon.  Mercury is dimmer as the apparition continues so optical aid is needed to first locate it. Regulus is 9.5° to the upper left of Mercury with Venus 8.5° beyond the star.  Mars rises six minutes before Mercury sets, although both are low in the sky.    Twilight lingers for over 2 hours at this time of the year at mid-northern latitudes.

On July 17, 2.5 hours after sunset and after Mercury sets, the planet parade arches across the southern sky.  Brilliant Venus sparkles 5° up in the west and Mars is 5° up in the southeast.  Saturn is 32.8° to the upper right of Mars, above the Teapot of Sagittarius.  Jupiter is 50.8° to the west of Saturn and 1.8° to the west of Zubenelgenubi.  The moon (5.0 days old) is nearly between Venus and Jupiter.

Another opportunity to see five planets simultaneously, from mid-northern latitudes, occurs in the morning near the time of the summer solstice in 2020.  While these groupings are infrequent, they provide magnificent displays of the solar system’s beauty.

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2018, March 21: #Venus, Mercury and Moon, The Early Show, #Mercury Slips Into Bright Twilight

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Click through this short slide show to see Venus, Mercury and the Moon this evening.

Brilliant Venus shines from the western sky this evening.  Now setting nearly 90 minutes after sunset, this evening planet appears higher each evening at the same time.

Dimmer Mercury is 4.5 degrees to the right of Venus.  Binoculars help finding its location.  It is rapidly diving into bright twilight and fading in brightness.  On April 1, it passes between Earth and Sun, and moves into the morning sky,

The 4.5-day old crescent moon appears 38 degrees above Venus this evening.  Watch it appear higher in the sky, more distant from Venus, and with a growing phase as it continues through its celestial path.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 18: Venus and Mercury, The Early Show, The Moon Joins the Party

A thin crescent moon, nearly 1.5 days old, joins brilliant Venus and Mercury this evening. Mercury is partly hidden by the clouds.

Venus is entering the sky after its superior conjunction. Mercury is a few days past its greatest separation from the sun and heading toward its solar inferior conjunction in early April.

Tomorrow evening Mercury is lower in the sky and the waxing crescent moon is about 13 degrees to the upper left of Venus.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 17: Venus and Mars, The Early Show, Mercury Heads Towards Conjunction

Brilliant Venus shines again from the western sky this evening during twilight. It is emerging from its solar superior conjunction and is in the sky for most of the year.

Speedy Mercury is now past its greatest elongation and begins setting earlier each evening. It passes between Earth and Sun on April 1.  Its departure occurs quickly during the next two weeks. Also notice that Mercury’s brightness is fading as well. This evening Mercury appears 3.9 degrees to the upper right of Venus.   Tomorrow evening the moon joins the view.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 15: Venus and Mercury,The Early Show, Greatest Elongation

Brilliant Venus and Mercury shine during twilight this evening. Mercury is at its greatest angular separation from the sun (greatest elongation).  This evening Mercury is 4 degrees from Venus.  Mercury begins to appear lower in the sky each night.  On March 18, the waxing crescent moon joins the planetary pair.

This one of the best views we ever see of Mercury.  It almost always sets before the end of the evening twilight or rises after twilight begins.  A spring evening appearance is the best time to see the planet as we have a very favorable view of the solar system in the west this time of year.  Other times of the year, Mercury hides in evening twilight and sets early after sunset.  Watch the planetary display in the west as Mercury changes its position compared to Venus quite rapidly during the next several days.

 

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 14: Venus and Mercury, The Early Show in West

This evening brilliant Venus and Mercury continue their planetary display in the western sky,  Mercury reaches its greatest separation (elongation) from the sun tomorrow evening.  Both planets are emerging from their solar superior conjunctions.  After it reaches its greatest elongation, Mercury quickly returns to the sun’s glare and moves into the morning sky.

Venus is in the sky until October.

On March 18, Mercury passes Venus again as the waxing crescent moon joins the planetary pair in the western sky.

This evening Mercury is 4 degrees to the upper right of Venus.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2018, March 12: Venus and Mercury, The Evening Show, The Display Continues

Brilliant Venus and Mercury shine this evening during twilight. Mercury is approaching its greatest elongation from the sun; it is putting on its best evening display of the year. Tonight the two planets are 3.9 degrees apart.  Venus is slowly moving into the evening sky.  Mercury is nearing its greatest angular separation from the sun and then returns into the sun’s glare and jumps into the morning sky.

Venus is brightening as it moves higher in the sky and closer to our planet.  This evening, Venus is 10 times brighter than Mercury.

The moon joins the scene next, when Mercury passes Venus again on March 18.

Continue to watch the planets in the evening western sky.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):