Evening “Stars”

Skywatching: January 12-17

Venus and Mercury are putting on quite a show in the early evening sky this week. As I write this, Chicago is in the middle of a lake-effect snow band, but the forecast is for clearer skies later this week. About 45 minutes after sunset, around 5:30 pm (or as soon as the dusk sky darkens enough), look to the western horizon. The brilliantly bright object is the planet Venus (once mistakenly known as the Evening Star–and the Morning Star). You can’t miss it; it is brighter than everything else in the sky except the Moon and the Sun. Just to the right of Venus, you should be able to find the elusive planet Mercury, provided you have an unobstructed view of the sky.

Mercury is elusive because it never ventures too far away from the Sun in the sky, and thus, it is never far away from the horizon. This past Saturday night (January 10), Mercury and Venus were very close in the sky, almost on top of each other. Over the course of the week, Mercury will gradually be pulling away to the right. Good luck finding it in the deepening twilight!

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