With Clouds Parting, Mercury Grows Visible in East Lansing Skies

Friday, June 21, 2019, 12:00 pm
Aron Sousa and Kepler Domurat-Sousa

This month, cloudy skies here have been obscuring the planet Mercury, but the next few evenings hold your chance to see our solar system's innermost planet, just after sunset near East Lansing’s west-northwestern horizon.

The two planets inside of earth’s orbit, Mercury and Venus, are never far from the sun in terms of our view from Earth. That often makes them hard to see, because the sun outshines them.

But when these two planets happen to be on the west side of the sun, they appear to lead the sunrise, becoming visible just before sunrise, lasting until the sun outshines the planets and again obscures our view.

When the orbits of these two planets carry them to the east side of the sun, they are visible just after sunset.

This month, Mercury is as far east in its orbit as it gets, and so it will be visible just after sunset. And, as it turns out this month, Mars will be very close to Mercury.

Heading outside for the Summer Solstice Jazz Fest tonight or tomorrow? Don’t forget to take a moment at sunset to look for the “wandering star” of Mercury, a few million miles farther away.

You might also want to mark your November calendar. Just six days after the November 5 East Lansing City Council election and land sale ballot initiative, on November 11, Mercury will transit the sun.

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