Over the next few evenings the two inner planets will come within less than a degree from each other and then pass by as each moves eastward away from the Sun along their respective orbits. This animated graphic is set for my local sunset time of 8:41 pm CDT and cycles through each graphic at 1-day intervals starting with Saturday July 16th and ending on the 20th. The graphic also illustrates how low the two inner planets are relative to the position of the Sun at the horizon and how challenging it may be to see them due to local horizon circumstances.
Not only are the two inner planets visible but stretching across the horizon to the east from Mercury and Venus are 3 more visible planets, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, and of course at your feet is the 6th visible planet, Earth. At times like this, with several of the 8 planets above the horizon it is easy to visualize the ecliptic by sort of connecting the dots (planets). The 8 planets all orbit the Sun with orbits that are close to being parallel to the plane of the Earth’s orbit, the ecliptic, with none of the 8 planets having an inclination, tilt, of more than 7o away from the ecliptic.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to go to bobs-spaces.