Starwatch: Mercury and Venus put on a dawn show | Science

Stargazing map

The new year begins in style with the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, putting on a beautiful show in the morning sky.

Venus, located 114 million kilometers from Earth, will be perfectly visible in the sky. Its reflective cloud layer acts as a mirror of sunlight and will be easily visible in clear skies.

Mercury will be more of a challenge. Although closer, at 86 million kilometers, it is a smaller world than Venus and has no appreciable atmosphere. Its rugged surface is not as effective as Venus’ cloud tops at reflecting light, so it appears much darker from Earth. This means that its glow will fight the light of dawn.

The map shows the view looking south-east from London on January 8 at 07:00 GMT. On this day, Mercury and Venus will be joined by a beautiful waning crescent Moon – only 12.7% of its visible surface will be illuminated.

To maximize your chances of seeing Mercury’s small world, find a viewing location with an excellent southeast horizon. It will be a little easier to see the group from the southern hemisphere as they will rise higher into the sky before sunrise.

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