If you look up in the evening sky just after sunset tonight (Sept. 5), you might see a trio of brilliant lights low on the western horizon and they're not all stars. The planets Venus and Mercury will be visible along with the bright star Spica, weather permitting.
You'll need a clear western horizon to spot Venus, Spica and Mercury tonight as the trio will be visible extremely low in the western sky, particularly Mercury, which can be hard to spot in the fading twilight before it slips below the horizon. Venus and Spica — the brightest star (actually it's a binary system) in the Virgo constellation — will appear extremely close, but you may have to wait a bit to see Spica join the view.
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"At closest approach on Sunday evening Venus will shine only a thumb's width above (or 1.5 degrees to the celestial north of) Spica, allowing them to appear together in binoculars and low power telescopes (red circle)," amateur astronomer Chris Vaughan with the mobile skywatching app SkySafari wrote in our September 2021 night sky guide.
"Venus will pop into view first after sunset — but you'll need to let the sky darken more to see 100 times fainter Spica with your unaided eyes. Start looking at about 8 p.m. local time." Be careful to wait until the sun has fully set before use a telescope or binoculars, he added.
While Mercury will be visible to the lower right of Venus, tonight's view is just a preview of sightings of the planets and the moon this month. The moon's phase is will reach its new moon stage on Monday night (Sept. 6), but will soon illuminate into a crescent later this week.
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Mercury will appear near the moon in a conjunction that will mostly be visible from the Southern Hemisphere and lower latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere as it occurs at 4:18 p.m. EDT (2018 GMT) when the sun is still up.
Then on Friday, Sept. 10, the moon will pass Venus, offering a potentially dazzling view as they should be visible near each other in the southwestern sky.
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