Mercury shines at its best for a few more nights, reaching a position called its Greatest Eastern Elongation, or its greatest separation from the Sun. By 8 o’clock, Venus gleams remarkably bright, one third of the way up in the west. Mercury sits about two hand-widths above the west-northwest horizon, edging lower but still in view through 8:30 PM.

Jupiter reaches its conjunction with the Sun today, which from our view is directly behind it, completely out of view. With Jupiter’s slow paced orbit of 12 years, it will be the Earth’s orbital motion that changes our view of the largest planet, gradually bringing into the morning twilight by late May, but not back to the evening skies until this Fall.

Not only is Orion lowering into the west more and more with each passing evening, but the Milky Way is also dropping nearer the horizon. Its faint light makes it difficult to see near the horizon through the thicker part of the atmosphere, and it will remain obscure until summer.