I walked out of the office building this evening and just stopped. There, framed by the treetops along the street and the awning and wall of the next building over, was clearly Venus, which I hadn’t seen in months (since the last time it was visible in the evening), and below it a pinprick that, unless I’m mistaken, was Mercury (which I’ve only ever seen on a handful of occasions). It’s certainly in the right place, and I waited to see if either light would move (there’s an airport literally across the street) before deciding that they were both planets.
A few minutes earlier, Mercury would have been too faint. A few minutes later, it would have been below the trees. Not long after that, Venus would have been too low to see as well.
Update! The next two nights were too cloudy to see anything, but Friday evening I was able to spot them again! You can really see how much Mercury has moved relative to Venus in just three days.
Update 2! And here’s the view the following Tuesday, one week after the first shot. I had to move to the left a few feet since they were behind the building now, which is why the light pole is visible this time. In retrospect, I wish I’d snapped it in all three shots, because that way I’d be able to make sure I was presenting them all at the same zoom level. I’ve been eyeballing it, and I think it’s close enough to get the idea across.
Last night I had a perfect view of the conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury, but only a phone. Tonight I had a more obstructed view, but I think the power lines ended up making it a bit more interesting than a plain photo with this camera would have been.
It’s also astonishing how quickly Mercury moves. No wonder they named it after the god of speed.
I had no luck viewing the Transit of Venus. I didn’t have time to find and meet up with any sort of viewing party that might have a telescope or other equipment, and I’m kicking myself for not having tracked down a set of eclipse glasses of my own, so I was left with a handheld pinhole “camera” made out of a cardboard gum package. The clearest image I could get with that was about 1/4″, too small to see the tiny speck moving across the sun. (Though I could see the cloud bank the sun was setting into about the point that I gave up and went inside.)
Oh, well. I can’t be too upset, since I got to see a great solar eclipse two weeks ago. And there are plenty of places to watch online and find pictures.
Photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day.
At the age of 34, I’ve finally seen the planet Mercury.* It’s notoriously difficult to spot, but when I read that it was going to be very close to Venus for the next few days, I had to try.
As it turns out, I was able to see it from a local grocery store parking lot. I left the car just as Venus was becoming visible, concerned by the clouds starting to drift past, and left the store to a clear twilight sky and a “star” below and to the right of Venus…exactly where Mercury should be!
*Of course I’ve seen photos, but I’d never seen the planet directly with my own eyes — or if I have, I didn’t recognize it.