January 1st, 2015


A modest ambition: finding the planet Mercury

I don't think I have ever seen the planet Mercury. (It is said that Copernicus never saw it either, in the 70 years of his life, but this is disputed.) We in the northern hemisphere have a good chance of catching it in the next week or so: it is very close to Venus (which is much brighter and easier to spot) and sets about an hour after the sun, and should be visible enough even without binoculars. If you have an unimpeded view of the southwestern horizon, have a look for it from about 40 minutes after sunset.

This is the year that we will get our first ever close looks at Ceres and Pluto; a good moment to dust off the astronomy books. (Or buy new ones.)