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Venus and Mercury

May 20, 2020

The Sun’s closest planets will be playing a game of criss-cross in the evening sky the next few nights. They drop from view pretty early, though, so there’s not a lot of time to enjoy the show.

Venus is the brighter of the two worlds. It’s the brilliant “evening star.” It’s the second planet out from the Sun. Right now, it’s getting ready to cross between the Sun and Earth in early June, so it’s dropping lower in the sky each evening. It’ll vanish for a few days, then return to good view in the morning sky by the middle of the month.

The other world is Mercury, the Sun’s closest planet. It’s emerging from behind the Sun, so it will climb higher in the sky for several nights. It’ll remain in good view for about three weeks before it drops back into the twilight glare.

Mercury is only a fraction as bright as Venus. In part, that’s because it’s more than three times farther from us than Venus is. Mercury is smaller than Venus is, too, and its surface is much darker. As it climbs away from the Sun, though, it’ll look brighter, making it an easy target.

Tonight, look for Mercury below Venus not long after sunset. They set by about 10 o’clock. The planets will be closer together tomorrow night, with Mercury climbing just above Venus by Friday. And the crescent Moon will join them this weekend, creating a beautiful conjunction in the fading twilight.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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