Planets at Dawn

Mercury and Mars can be glimpsed before sunrise.

Sky & Telescope

The planet Mercury never strays far from the Sun, remaining close to the horizon during twilight. Tomorrow morning you may be able to glimpse the speedy planet about 10° — the width of a closed fist held at arm's length — above the east-southeast horizon before sunrise.
(Visit our online almanac if you want to know when the Sun will rise for your location.)

Mercury, shining at magnitude –0.5, reached greatest elongation from the Sun today, and has already started its slip back toward the solar glare in its neverending circuit around our star.

You may be able to catch dimmer Mars (magnitude 1.6) lying below Mercury, just above the horizon, as shown in the illustration at right. Binoculars will certainly help you to spot the planet pair.

Your next good opportunity to see Mercury will be in the evening sky in early February. Mars, however, will still be low in the morning sky, where it will remain through much of early 2007. For a weekly update of where all the planets are, see "This Week's Planet Roundup" at the end of Sky at a Glance.


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