BACK in March we had our best view of the planet Mercury in the morning sky for the year.
Not everyone gets up early enough to have seen it though, so fortunately we have another chance in the coming couple of weeks.
This time at the more convenient hour of early evening.
Unfortunately our view isn’t going to be as good as it was in March, as it is quite low in the sky.
Still, it is possible.
Look almost due west about half an hour after sunset and you will see two moderately bright points of light in an otherwise faint part of the sky low to the horizon.
Mercury is the left hand one.
Very few people have ever seen Mercury, or at least realised thats what they were looking at.
Since it never appears far from the sun it unfortunately tends to be lost in its glare most of the time.
Every so often though it appears far enough away from the sun to be seen, such as the next couple of weeks.
So have a look and join the small group of people who can say they have seen our smallest planetary neighbour.
Of course the temptation will be to drift your gaze towards the right.
If you do you will see golden coloured Saturn, the jewel of the solar system.
Although big enough to fit over 760 earths inside it, Saturn looks small because it is 1.6 billion km away.
It takes light almost one-and-a-half hours to get from there to the earth.
But it’s the superfast winds that can reach speeds of 1800km/h in the upper atmosphere, combined with heat rising from the planet’s interior, that cause its golden appearance.
Once you have finished looking at Mercury and Saturn it is time to turn your gaze upwards for not far above the two planets lies a third, brilliant Venus.
More than 12 times closer than Saturn, Venus still looks like a point of light simply because even though it’s closer, it’s also a lot smaller.
And as if having three planets easily visible within such close proximity wasn’t enough, next Monday will see the crescent moon join them in the sky to create an astronomical spectacle not to be missed.
This is a great time to see so many planets so easily. If you have a telescope, use it.
If not, use a pair of binoculars or just your eyes.
Either way, don’t miss out on having a look at such a wonderful collection of celestial neighbours.