Mercury is a "must see" in the evening twilight this weekend. The planet will be paired with a thin crescent moon low in the west-southwest this evening and Saturday, following sundown.
Today, the show ends before 6:30: sunset will be at 5:05, moonset at 6:30, and Mercury sets at 6:41. The moon is just reappearing from its dark phase -- new moon was yesterday -- and so is most delicate tonight. A clear view to the horizon is a must and binoculars might be used to advantage when observing in early twilight, at about 5:45. Look for the crescent to the lower right of Mercury today. Let the moon guide you to the planet Saturday: Mercury will be directly below the crescent.
Named for the Roman messenger of the gods, Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and the smallest in our solar system. The planet is here and gone quickly, setting close behind the sun on the western horizon when it appears in the evening sky and it leads the sun close above the eastern horizon in its morning apparitions. See the little planet at its highest and brightest until Tuesday.
On Sunday the 2nd, Groundhog Day marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is one of the folk festivals that celebrates the midway point between a solstice and an equinox in the rhythm of the year.
To contact Judy Isacoff, M.A. go to: www.naturesturn.org