Moon-Mercury-Venus

If you’ve been waiting for a great morning to get outside and have a look at the line-up of planets, Saturday morning (Feb. 6) about an hour or so before sunrise might be a great time to do it. A thin eyelash of a waning crescent moon will be low in the southeast sky in a neat triangle with Mercury and Venus just a couple fingers’-width away. Remember, Mercury’s always tough to spot because it’s so close to the sun, only 36 million miles away. This means they never get very far apart in our sky either, and it disappears into the sun’s glare quickly. You can use the moon to help, but you’ll need to look hard for it. It’s a skill lots of people, myself included, haven’t mastered. As tempting as it might be to go outside in the dark before dawn on a February morning, don’t go too early. Earlier than about an hour before sunrise things will be too low in the sky, or might not have risen yet.

By the end of next week, this alignment will be pulling apart, washed away by daylight, so this might truly be the best day to do it. Here’s the southeast sky at around 6:30am Saturday morning as shown in Stellarium, and a closeup on the moon-Mercury-Venus end of it. Clear skies, everyone, and thanks for tuning in!

morning
The skies just before sunrise to the south and southeast on February 6, 2016 (from Stellarium)
mmv
The moon, Mercury, and Venus on February 6, 2016 (from Stellarium)
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