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Jupiter and Mercury visible after sunset this week

If you head outside a half-hour after sunset this week, you can spot the largest and smallest* planets in our solar system right next to each other. The giant planet Jupiter is just ending its months-long appearance in the sky, slipping slowly down towards the sun. This week, the tiny planet Mercury is moving upwards from the horizon, putting in a quick appearance before also disappearing into the sun’s glare. On March 1`4th and 15th, the two planets will be about 2 degrees apart – that’s only about the width of four full moons in the sky. They’ll easily fit into the field of view of pretty much any household binoculars.

If you watch them from night to night, you’ll see the clockwork dance of the heavens: Mercury and Jupiter will change their relative positions from night to night, not just due to their own motion but that of our planet as well. The ground you’re standing on is part of this ballet, orbiting the sun along with Mercury and Jupiter.

The best nights to see this are March 14th and 15th, but Mercury should still be visible for another week or so after that. SkyNews Magazine rates this one of the top 11 celestial events this year.

*Yes, Mercury is the smallest planet which orbits the Sun; Pluto is still a “dwarf planet” along with Eris and Ceres.

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Scott Young

Manager of Science Communications and Visitor Experiences

“Scott is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, developing astronomy and science programs. He has been an informal science educator for thirty years, working in the planetarium and science centre field both at The Manitoba Museum and also at the Alice G. Wallace Planetarium in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Scott is an active amateur astronomer and a past-President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.”