Pink planet in the sky: Mercury makes rare appearance

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Feb. 12, 2013 at 2:16 PM   |   Comments

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Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in the Solar System, is making a rare appearance this month, appearing in the early evening sky as a bright pink spot.

From February 8 to February 21, Mercury will be visible near the horizon shortly after sunset, and will take on a pink hue, according to Space.com. Mercury isn't actually pink, but will appear so because of the light reflected from the sunset.

Scientists recommend stargazers look out for Mercury about 30 minutes after sunset. For the next few days, Mars will also appear nearby.

Mercury is about the size of Earth's moon, and its orbit around the Sun is a quick 88 days. Because it's so close to the Sun--between 29 and 43 million miles, compared to the Earth's 93 million miles--the Sun's light often makes it difficult to see Mercury with the naked eye.

The planet Mercury is pictured on October 6, 2008, at 4:40 a.m. Eastern Time. NASA's spacecraft MESSENGER captured the images as it successfully completed its second flyby of Mercury. The bright crater just south of the center of the image is Kuiper, identified on images from the Mariner 10 mission in the 1970s. (UPI Photo/NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
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