Tag: Mercury

2019, June 5-30: Mercury and Mars in the Evening Sky

The chart above shows the evening positions of Mercury and Mars from June 5, 2019, to June 30, 2019. The moon is part of the scene on June 5 and June 6.

About 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury and Mars are visible in the west-northwest  beneath Pollux and Castor, the Gemini Twins.  Early in the month, the  stars are about one-third of the way up in the sky.

Mercury is beginning an evening appearance.  Early in the month, it is brighter, but closer to the horizon.

Twilight lasts longer this time of year, so it’s not visible in the latter sky glow as the sky darkens further.  So, the upcoming conjunction with Mars is better viewed with a binocular.  Both planets’ movements are easier viewed across several nights.

On June 5, the waxing crescent moon, the waxing crescent moon that is 2.7 days past the New phase and only 9% illuminated is 6.3° to the upper left of Mars, which sets at the end of evening twilight.  At this time the Red Planet is about 13° up in the west-northwest, a little over halfway between Castor and Pollux and the horizon.

Each evening until the conjunction, Mercury is closer to Mars.

On June 18, Mercury passes close to Mars, less than the moon’s apparent diameter.  The chart above shows them 45 minutes after sunset when they appear in the west-northwest.  Use a binocular to locate them.  Can you see them without a binocular?

As the month progresses, the planets appear lower and in a brighter sky. Continue to use a binocular to track the planets.

By month’s end, a dimmer Mercury appears to the upper left of Mars.


2019, April 13-20: Venus and Mercury in Morning Sky

Venus and Mercury appear near each other on mid-April.  There is no conjunction as Mercury does not pass Venus.  Mercury moves faster and, typically, its motion causes the two to pass each other.  During this event, the two planets do not pass each other but they move within 5° of each other.  This event is know as a quasi-conjunction.

Mercury is in a very unfavorable apparition to observe. It appears very low in the east at Civil Twilight, about 30 minutes before sunrise, when the sun is 6° below the horizon. During this appearance this speedy planet does not rise before Nautical Twilight – which occurs about an hour before sunrise; so Mercury visible in a very bright sky, near the horizon. At its greatest elongation, it is only 4° in altitude.  Find a clear horizon and use a binocular.  First locate Venus then look through your binocular to locate this elusive planet.

The Venus-Mercury gaps:

April 13: 4.5°
April 14: 4.4°
April 15: 4.4°
April 16: 4.3°
April 17: 4.3°
April 18: 4.3°
April 19: 4.4°
April 20: 4.5°

On these mornings, it’s possible to see four planets in the morning sky — Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn — although a binocular may be needed to locate Saturn.  The Ringed Wonder is low in the southern sky,  less than one-third of the way up in the sky.  Jupiter is farther west, to the right of the south direction, at about the same height as Saturn above the horizon.

More about the morning planets:

2019: Winter Morning Planet Parade Album

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On a recent trip to a more southerly latitude, the morning planets presented themselves high in the sky.  This album shows them on the mornings of February 28, March 1, and March 2, 2019.  When travelling farther south, the southern stars and planets appear higher in the southern sky.

2019: February is Mercury’s Best Evening Appearance of the Year

2019: Mercury makes its best evening appearance of the year. It is found in the western sky about 30 minutes after sunset. Use a binocular to locate it , then look without optical assistance.
2019, March 1: Mercury shines in the west during bright twilight during its best evening appearance during the year.

Mercury has its best evening display during late February 2019.  The planet is almost always visible in bright twilight.  Here’s what you need:  A clear western horizon and a binocular.

The chart above begins on February 16; Mercury is only 6° up in the western sky. The chart shows the planet’s position 30 minutes after sunset.  Mercury appears as a bright star.  Find it first with the binocular and then try to locate it with optical assistance.

Each night the planet appears higher in the sky and dims rapidly.  By the end of February Mercury is only about half as bright as it appears on February 16 and over twice as high up in the sky.

On February 26, Mercury is at its greatest angular separation from the sun, known as its greatest elongation.  On this evening it is about 13° up in the sky.  Even past greatest elongation, Mercury appears higher in the sky as the month ends.  It is nearly 14° degrees up.

Mercury then heads back into the sun’s glare, appearing lower and rapidly dimming in brightness.  By early March, it is difficult to see with the unaided eye. On March 7, the waxing crescent moon passes over 8° to the left of the fading Mercury, but it will not be much help in locating the planet because of its proximity to Mercury.


2018: December 13: Morning Star Venus and Mercury

Bright Morning Star Venus and Mercury shine during twilight this morning in the southeastern sky.  The planet Venus is at its earliest rising time this morning for this appearance, rising shortly before 3:30 a.m. CST.  Mercury is displaying a very favorable morning appearance, although it nearly always appears during twilight.

More about Venus and Mercury

2018, December 9: Morning Star Venus and Mercury

Brilliant Venus shines in the southeast during twilight this morning. Mercury, low in the sky, joins this brighter inner planet. (Look for Mercury with binoculars to first locate it. Zoom in on the image to see the planet.) During the next several mornings, Mercury is brighter and higher in the sky. Jupiter joins the view later in the month.

For more about Venus, and Mercury and Jupiter’s morning dance, see the following articles:

2018: December’s Morning Planet Dance

Three bright planets appear low in the southeast sky during late December.  Watch their movement during the five days highlighted to see them move in a celestial dance against the starry background, especially with Mercury passing Jupiter. Both planets are among fourth and fifth magnitude stars in southern Ophiuchus.  Mercury reaches greatest elongation (21°) on December 15, rising nearly 110 minutes before sunrise.  It stands about 20° above the horizon at sunrise. After its greatest elongation, Mercury rises about 2 minutes later each morning.  While the planets are moving eastward compared to the stars, Mercury appears lower each morning when viewed at the same time, as it heads back into bright twilight toward its solar conjunction.   This morning elongation of Mercury bookends the year, nearly matching rising intervals during its apparition in January.  Mercury moves fastest.  Watch it as it moves past Psi Ophiuchi and onward toward Jupiter for a conjunction on December 21.  Venus, above the Claws of the Scorpion (Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali), rises about 230 minutes before sunrise.  It moves closer to the Southern Claw during the mornings described below. A few weeks ago, Venus was at its phase of greatest brilliancy and greatest illuminated extent.  It appears about 25° above Jupiter and Mercury.   In comparison, Jupiter, about rising 90 minutes before sunrise, creeps against the sidereal scene. It is near Omega Ophiuchi.  Use binoculars to track the motion of the planets against the positions of the stars and to initially locate Antares which is very low in the sky.  The motion of Venus and Jupiter are described in detail in accompanying articles. The following describes the mornings at 45 minutes before sunrise:

December 19:  Brilliant Venus (m = −4.7) is 28° up in the southeast, 4.3° above Zubenelgenubi (α Lib, m = 2.8).  Bright Jupiter (m = −1.8) is 27° to the lower left of Venus.  Jupiter is 0.8° to upper right of Omega Ophiuchi (ω Oph, m = 4.4) and 5.3° to the upper left of Antares (α Sco, m = 1.0), although the star is only 3° in altitude.  Use binoculars to find it.  Mercury (m = −0.5) is 2.5° to the upper right of Jupiter and 1° to the upper right of Psi Ophiuchi (ψ Oph, m = 4.5).

December 20: This morning Jupiter is 1.6° below Mercury and 0.6° to the upper right of Omega Ophiuchi. Mercury is 0.6° to the lower left of Psi Ophiuchi.

December 21: Mercury, Jupiter and Antares are nearly in a line, spanning 6.1°; the Jupiter-to-Antares gap is 5.2°.  Jupiter is 0.9° to the lower right of Mercury, their closest separation, and 0.4° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.

December 22: Jupiter is 1.2° to the right of Mercury (m = −0.4) and 0.2° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.

December 23: Jupiter is 2° to the upper right of Mercury, which has an altitude of 5°.  The giant planet is 0.22° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.  It passes 5.2° to the upper left of Antares and Mercury passes 6.1° to the upper left of the star.  Venus is nearly 25° to the upper right of Jupiter and 2.9° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi.

Jupiter-Antares conjunctions become more difficult to see at the time of their next two conjunctions.  On December 4, 2030, Jupiter is only 6.5° west of the sun when it passes 5.1° from Antares.  At the November 23, 2042, conjunction, Jupiter is 8.8° east of the sun, setting 30 minutes after the sun, and passes 5.1° north of Antares. Mercury passes between them on November 20.  The November 8, 2054, conjunction occurs when Jupiter sets 75 minutes after the sun.  It is 24° east of the sun and 5.1° above Antares.  The next conjunction that has the pair perfectly-placed in the evening sky is July 13, 2090, when they are on the meridian at 10:00 p.m. CDT, Jupiter is 5.2° north of Antares.

Back to the current apparition of Jupiter:  After the Jupiter-Mercury activity, Venus moves between the Scorpion’s claws, heading for a widely-spaced conjunction with the giant planet in January.  This is followed by a conjunction with Saturn in February.  More details are in the accompanying articles; look for a focused article about the Venus conjunctions in the Winter issue.

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