Quadrantid meteors and 11 other big skywatching events of 2012

What lies ahead sky-wise for 2012? Joe Rao, SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist, selected what he considers to be the top 12 "skylights" for this coming year,

2. Feb. 20 to March 12: Best evening apparition of Mercury

In February and March, the "elusive" innermost planet Mercury moves far enough from the glare of the sun to be readily visible soon after sunset. Its appearance will be augmented by two other bright planets (Venus and Jupiter), which also will be visible in the western sky during this same time frame.

Mercury will arrive at its greatest elongation from the sun March 5. It will be quite bright (-1.3-to-0 magnitude) before this date and will fade rapidly to +1.6 magnitude thereafter. Astronomers measure the brightness of objects in terms of magnitude, with lower numbers corresponding to brighter objects.

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