Mercury – the Usain Bolt of planets
In mythology, Mercury is known as the messenger of the gods, often depicted wearing winged sandals. The eponymous planet is just as fleetfooted and takes only 88 days to orbit the sun. That’s because it’s so close to the sun, often disappearing in the glow. This year, Mercury will be visible three times in the evening and four times in the morning. It will be furthest from the sun in July and easiest to spot. Just after sunset, look for a bright “star” near the horizon, in the region where the sun has set. This year there will even be a beacon to help you: Regulus will be nearby, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo (the “dot” of the upside-down question mark that forms the head of the lion). From 24 – 26 July, look for Mercury at about 6.30 pm and you’ll be able to see how fast it moves against the starry backdrop of the night sky, and past Regulus. On 25 July, when Mercury and Regulus are closest together, a thin sickle moon will join them to form a beautiful grouping. On 30 July, Mercury will reach its furthest point from the sun as seen from earth. Afterwards, it will “dive down” towards the horizon over a period of two weeks and disappear into the sun’s glow.