Look to the west-northwestern sky shortly after sunset on Wednesday (Aug. 3) to catch a glimpse of Mercury shining close to Leo’s “heart,” its brightest star Regulus.
The pair will be close enough to view with a telescope, as illustrated by the green circle in the image above.
“After the sun has completely set, use your optics to seek out the five times brighter planet positioned a finger’s width to the upper right (or 1 degree to the celestial north) of the star.” writes astronomer Chris Vaughan of Astrogeo.ca (opens in new tab), who prepares Space.com’s monthly Night Sky calendar in cooperation with Simulation Curriculum.
Related: The brightest planets in August’s night sky: How to see them (and when)
Note that if you are viewing the pair through a telescope, most will invert and/or mirror the view shown in the image above, according to Vaughan. Mercury will shine at magnitude -0.54 and Regulus at approximately 1.35 (On the magnitude scale used by astronomers, lower numbers signify brighter objects). For example, at its brightest, the planet Venus shines with a magnitude of about -4.6.)
Regulus lies within the constellation Leo. The blue-white “B” star is approximately 79 light-years away from Earth and ranked as the 21st brightest star in the sky, according to EarthSky. Regulus was named by 16th-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, according to the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics (opens in new tab), the star’s name means “little king” in Latin.
On Wednesday (Aug. 3) Mercury will have appeared to have “hopped” over Regulus and shine a thumb’s width to the upper left of the bright star, according to Vaughan.
If you’re looking for a telescope or binoculars to observe Regulus, our guides for the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals now can help. Our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can also help you prepare to capture the next skywatching sight on your own.
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