|Venus and Mercury in the twilight over Newgrange. Click image to see larger version.|
I spent a nice time this evening on Redmountain, across the Boyne Valley from Newgrange, watching for a rare sight. Both Venus and Mercury were visible in the twilight, but with Venus lower to the horizon and Mercury higher up. It was a beautiful June evening, following a glorious warm sunny day here in Ireland. I caught a glimpse of both planets from my home at around 10.30pm and decided to head out into the valley with the camera. It was a fruitful exercise. I first spotted Mercury with the naked eye at 10.55pm, although it had been visible in pictures for at least ten minutes previously. I watched Venus all the way to the horizon, where it set at 11.15pm.
I love this time of year, when the twilight stretches right into the night, and the sky doesn't get fully dark. It's such a beautiful time, and reminds us that, despite the short cold days of winter, the long days always come eventually. Summer Solstice is only 17 days away now. Seventeen days and the sun will begin to change its course southward again.
One important fact to note about tonight's observation is that I was located on Redmountain, at roughly the point where the sun appears over the hill when it shines into Newgrange on Winter Solstice. With Venus setting behind Newgrange at this time, roughly opposite the Winter Solstice sunrise position, we are reminded that Boyne Valley folklore suggests that Venus shone into Newgrange once in eight years on the morning of Winter Solstice.