Just as the planet Venus passed close to the Pleiades earlier this month, the smaller, fainter, and more elusive planet Mercury will also skim this famous star cluster on the evening of April 30. The planet and cluster will be visible low in the northwestern sky after sunset, about 10º above the horizon in the northern hemisphere. This is a golden opportunity to spot the little planet before it heads back towards the Sun. A pair of binoculars will help you see the pairing of Mercury and the Pleiades.
More remarkably, on the same day, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mercury for four years, will crash into the planet at more than 8,000 mph and end its long mission. This historic event will not be directly visible from Earth, but you can join Slooh for a live show as we cover this extraordinary event and discuss the achievements of the MESSENGER Mercury mission.