Hopefully, the skies in your area will be clear tonight (July 19), because there will be an excellent grouping of celestial bodies shortly after sunset.
As smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to create hazy skies in many parts of North America, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars are moving ahead with their planned night-sky party tonight. Just after sunset, the faintest sliver of a two-day-old crescent moon will be low in the western sky. It will be joined by three of the inner planets of the solar system, not far from each other in the sky in the constellation Leo, Leo.
From New York City, the quartet should appear to the west just as the sky begins to darken at sunset. Note that the three planets and the moon will already be fairly low in the sky by the time it gets dark, so you’ll need a good view of the horizon to make the most of the sky-viewing opportunity.
Related: Night sky, July 2023: What you can see tonight [maps]
Venus will be the brightest of these four objects, and thus will appear first in the evening twilight. Find the moon about a fist’s width at arm’s length to the right of Venus and slightly above it.
Go in the opposite direction from Venus – up and to the left – to see the steady red-orange glow of Mars.
Mercury will be much darker and more difficult to spot; It will be approximately palm-width below and to the right of the Moon. You’ll need a telescope to see Mercury, which is as bright as some stars of magnitude -0.45.
The four bodies will be in the constellation of Leo, making it a good opportunity to spot the stars of this popular night sky scene. The moon will be under the jaw of Leo, while Venus will lie between its front legs. Mars will be next to one of its hind legs.
On Thursday (July 20), Mars will approach the Moon. Head outside around the same time the next couple of nights and look west for the cosmic dance of these summertime sky-viewing favorites.
If you want to get a closer look at planets, the moon, or anything else in the night sky, our guides to the best telescopes and best binoculars are a great place to start.
And if you want to try your hand at photographing the moon and/or the planets, check out our guides on how to photograph the moon, what equipment you need to see and photograph the planets, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you took a photo of the Moon alongside Mars, Venus, and Mercury and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, name, and location to [email protected].
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