Two bright planets are pinching closer together in the early evening sky. They won’t quite catch up to each other, but they’ll get pretty close.
Mercury and Saturn are quite low in the southwest at sunset. They quickly come into view as twilight begins to fade away. The best time to look for them is about 30 minutes to an hour after sunset. Mercury is the brighter of the two worlds — for now — with Saturn to its upper left. Both are easy to spot, but only if you have a clear horizon.
Mercury is actually making one of its better evening appearances of the entire year. It’s the closest planet to the Sun, so it never strays far from the Sun in our sky. At best, it’s visible for a little while after sunset or before sunrise.
Saturn, on the other hand, is the sixth planet from the Sun — far outside Earth’s own orbit. So the giant planet crosses the entire night sky. Right now, it’s just finishing up another crossing, so it’s dropping toward the Sun, and soon will pass behind it.
For now, look for these worlds in the southwest in early evening. They’ll be closest together on Thursday, separated by less than four degrees — the width of two fingers held at arm’s length. Mercury is fading with each passing day, though. As it drops away from Saturn, later in the week, it’ll also drop below Saturn’s brightness. It’ll be lost in the twilight by about next weekend, with Saturn disappearing a few days later.
Script by Damond Benningfield