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Since before the first of the year, the bright planet Venus has been dazzling the western Shamokin sky, but we’re approaching Venus’s grand finale in our evening sky for 2020. Before saying goodbye, Venus and the planet Mercury will have a super close conjunction all this week during evening twilight in the very low western sky near the horizon. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, isn’t nearly as bright as Venus, but you should be able to easily spot it with the unaided eye. Next Thursday evening, Mercury will be less than 2 degrees to the lower left of Venus, and next Friday evening it will be perched less than 2 degrees to the upper left of Venus. Don’t miss it!

There’s also a cool planet show going on in the early morning pre-twilight sky. Set the alarm for 4 a.m. After you shake off the cobwebs, step outside and you’ll be greeted with celestial “cat’s eyes” in the low south-southeast sky. The two, super-bright side-by-side stars are actually the largest planets of our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn. They’re the closest they’ve been to each other in the sky in 20 years, and as 2020 continues they’ll get even closer. As it is right now, it’s possible to get both planets in the same field of view with most pairs of binoculars.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

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