There may be eight planets and five dwarf planets in the solar system, but the terrestrial (rocky) planets of the inner solar system are where it’s at.
The four planets closest to the sun – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – are also quite close to each other and often shine brightly in each other’s night skies. If you have been watching the planets this year you will know that Venus and Mars were visible all the time.
Every once in a while all the rocky planets shine brightly together—and that’s exactly what happens this week as fast-moving Mercury enters the direct duo as the planetary party draws to a close.
From around Wednesday, July 19, 2023 Mercury will be visible in the sky after sunset, rising each night to take its place with Venus and Mars.
You will need to look north-west, preferably from somewhere with a clear view of the horizon. A pair of binoculars will be helpful in finding Mercury.
To see the fourth rocky planet, of course, you just have to look around you!
However, you don’t have long to see the view of the four inner planets because exactly five nights later Venus will enter the solar eclipse and disappear from view. Mars won’t be far behind, and besides, Mercury won’t be waiting any longer early next week.
This is your last chance to see the inner solar system in a minute.
Here’s what you’ll see over those five nights:
Wednesday, July 19: Mercury Conjoins Venus, Mars And The Moon
Mercury will be in the lower right of a 5% crescent moon, with bright Venus to the left and Mars to the upper right (between Mars and Venus will be the star Regulus in Leo).
Thursday, July 20: Mercury rises, Venus sinks and the Moon sits near Mars
Go west tonight and you’ll see Mercury slightly higher in the night sky, Venus slightly lower, and a 10% illuminated crescent moon near Mars now.
Friday, July 21: Mars and Venus Align With the Crescent Moon as Mercury Ascends
Tonight there is a beautiful view of Mars and Venus aligning with a 15% burning crescent moon, with Mercury to the right of Venus, still low in the sky, and as high as it will ever be entering its brief eclipse .
Saturday, July 22: Venus on the Cusp trine Mercury
It would be wise to come out a little earlier tonight to look for the planets in a brighter sky, as Venus is now about to disappear altogether.
Sunday, July 23: Last Call to View the Inner Solar System
This is your last chance to see the other three rocky planets in the night sky, as Venus continues to sink out of sight, now only visible in the early evening. However, you should still be able to see Mercury, which will be a little closer to Venus tonight, and Mars above.
Do you wish a clear sky and wide eyes.