Did you know that Mercury is visible with the naked eye? It is easy to see it this month in the early evening sky. Find a place with a clear view to the western horizon. Mercury will appear very low to the horizon so the clearer your view to the west, the better.
After sunset on the 19 September, the brightest object you’ll see directly above the western horizon is the crescent Moon. The Moon, a bright star called Spica and Mercury form a neat triangle in the evening sky. Spica appears above and to the left of the Moon. Mercury is the brighter star-like object directly below Spica.
When and where to look: Look west at 6:45 pm, 19 September.
Over the next few days, Mercury will appear to move closer and closer to Spica. On the 22 September, they are at their closest. A special view indeed!
This image features the successful launch of the BepiColombo mission to Mercury on 20 October 2018. This is a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA. The spacecraft won’t reach Mercury until December 2025.
On board are two scientific orbiters including ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter which will map Mercury, and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter which will study the magnetosphere.
Before it reaches Mercury, there are two planned close passes by Venus. The first is coming up next month. BepiColombo will use two close passes by Venus to help it get into an orbital path so it can catch up with Mercury. This little planet orbits the Sun every 88 days!
Read more about BepiColombo: www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/BepiColombo.
More stargazing: Find out what else is up in WA’s beautiful dark night sky at www.astrotourismwa.com.au/stargazing.