Venus is back. 

After spending the last six months in the morning sky where only early-risers could see it, Earth’s sister planet Venus will this week make a dramatic return to the post-sunset evening sky. 

For the second planet from the Sun it’s the beginning of a new apparition—a period when a planet is  visible in the night sky—that will last for the remainder of 2021. 

Venus is the third brightest object in the sky, dimmer only than the Moon and the Sun. Hence it’s nickname “Morning Star” for when it’s visible before dawn in the east, and “Evening Star” for when it can be seen in the west after dark. 

Technically emerging into the post-sunset sky in late April 2021, Venus in its new apparition also coincides with the tiny planet Mercury’s best apparition of 2021. At its highest and brightest of 2021 this week, and visible now through May 24, 2021, Mercury is ideally placed to find in the west after the Sun goes down. 

In fact, this week and next are ideal for spotting the two inner planets together—and with the bonus of a waxing crescent Moon close by. 

In particular the sight of Venus close to the slim crescent of the Moon should be spectacular! 

You won’t need any special equipment to see the crescent Moon or Venus—which is incredibly bright—but Mercury is far dimmer and may only be visible in binoculars. But do keep looking—it will be visible in clear skies if you have a good view relatively low to the west-northwest horizon soon after the Sun has set. Equally as important as binoculars is patience! 

Here’s exactly when and where to look this week to see Venus, the crescent Moon and Mercury: 

A crescent Moon and Venus

When: 30 minutes after sunset where you are on Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Where: low on west-northwest horizon

Look low on the northwest horizon tonight and tomorrow and you’ll see a slender 1%-illuminated crescent Moon a mere 1º from Venus. You’ll need binoculars—and a lot of luck—to see this, but have a go!

As seen from a narrow strip of Pacific Ocean just off South America the crescent Moon will occult (cover-up) Venus for a short period. 

A crescent Moon and Mercury

When: 30 minutes after sunset where you are on Thursday, May 13, 2021

Where: low on west-northwest horizon

Now 3.5%-lit, the crescent Moon will tonight be more easily visible, this time just 2° from Mercury, and slightly above Venus, low in the northwestern sky at dusk.

Again, you’ll need binoculars. Mercury will be visible as a tiny orange-yellow light. Venus will appear much brighter. 

Mercury highest in the night sky

When: 30 minutes after sunset where you are on Saturday, May 15, 2021

Where: low on west-northwest horizon

The “Swift Planet” will be most easily seen just above the western horizon right after sunset. Don’t hang about because it will sink quickly. This is the best night to see Mercury in its current April-June apparition, and the best of the year, too. 

As the year continues, Venus will rise higher into the post-sunset night sky, reaching its highest in late October 2021 and appearing super-bright in early December 2021.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.