Monday, March 14, 2011

Jupiter and Mercury

Well, as I said yesterday, no hiking for me for another few days. Today, I did some sidewalk astronomy. A last minute bit of schedule shuffling had me heading out to the library in El Monte instead of a school in La Canada (the school even may be on Wednesday night, depending on weather). Clouds foiled some of the viewing party tonight, as well. But we a few "late" arrivers (about 7:30pm) got treated to a peek at Jupiter and Mercury.

They're very close to each other for the next few days. Both are almost exactly due west after sunset, so if you have a clear horizon (and you live at roughly the latitude of Los Angeles), just look low to the west after the sun sets. Jupiter will be the brighter, whitish-colored "star." Tomorrow, Mercury will be a smidgen above and to the right. It won't be nearly as bright as Jupiter, and will have more of a copper color to it.

On the 15th, Mercury will be a bit further above and to the right of Jupiter. For the next few days after that, Mercury will keep appearing a bit higher each night, while Jupiter keeps slipping closer and closer to the horizon at dusk.

Sky and Telescope magazine has charts here, though you might need to register (free) to view them.

If you have even a small telescope, you'll see that Jupiter has a definite disc. You may also be able to make out some of the four Galilean moons, all in a line. Mercury will be a much smaller disc.

Not sure if I'll be able to hike the next few days. I have a civil service test tomorrow morning, and might need to do some family stuff in the afternoon (if not, I'll squeeze in a hike). As I mentioned earlier, I have another astronomy thing on Wednesday night, and will be working on job applications earlier that day. Hoping to get back into the mountains soon, though!


  1. Thanks for comments on my Griffith Park hike! Until I started working in L.A 4 years ago, the park never crossed my hiking radar. I don't know if I'd spend prime time hiking there, but it sure is a great place to hike after work.

    I'm more fluent in botany than astronomy, but there is always something fascinating to view in the evening sky. Thanks for the tips in viewing Jupiter and Mercury!

  2. Happy to share. I've been into astronomy for about as long as I've enjoyed hiking, but even I didn't see Mercury for the first time until maybe 3 years ago.