Queen Bee and Drone

Mercury, overtaking Venus, passes only half a degree north of it as seen by us.

Mercury passing Venus 2016 July 16

Spatial view of the travels of the three inner planets in July, with sightlines from Earth on July 16.  Actually the sightlines are at the beginning (0 hour) of the day by Universal Time.  The overtaking happens at the end of the day, 23h UT (which is 7 PM by summer clocks in eastern North America.  The planets are exaggerated 400 times in size, the Sun 5.  The dashed line is the vernal equinox direction, our customary baseline in the celestial sphere.

Unfortunately this close conjunction can hardly be seen by us, because we have to look for it only 11 degrees to the east of the Sun.

Evening scene 2016 July 16

And rhe planets appear even lower over the horizon (for north-hemisphere observers) because of the slope of the ecliptic relative to the Sun at this time of year.

Only in the mind’s eye, therefore, can we see that far in the background are the stars of the wonderful cluster called Praesepe (the “manger”), or more often nowadays the Beehive.  Over the next day, Mercury buzzes through the cluster’s northern fringe, then Venus just about exactly through its center.


4 thoughts on “Queen Bee and Drone”

  1. Perhaps like many of Guy’s readers, I have been trying for Mercury and Venus periodically over the past three weeks, but here in central Virginia the skies have not cooperated until this evening. So, finally, on July 29, I was able to pick up both Venus and Mercury very easily in 20 x 80 binoculars, and also spot Venus without any optical aid. With luck, I’ll be able to follow Mercury as it gradually falls back to be overtaken by Venus over the next few weeks.

    1. Congratulations Eric. I saw Venus and Mercury a couple of times this past week as undulating little blobs through mounted 11×56 binoculars, and Venus once naked eye.

      If you’re able to see Mercury conjunct Venus late next month, you’ll also be witnessing their rendezvous with their father Jupiter.

  2. I tried to see them yesterday evening. No luck, the fog was coming in, obscuring the horizon. And today the sky has been overcast all day. Oh well, I’ve got another couple of weeks to see Mercury, and the rest of the year to see Venus.

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