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See Mercury at its morning finest

The innermost-lying planet Mercury presents it’s finest displaying of the yr within the pre-dawn sky for the remainder of October and into early November. AN Graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.

Mercury is presently seen within the pre-dawn sky because it pulls out to biggest western elongation from the Sun on 25 October. This apparition (interval of visibility) offers observers an awesome alternative to look at the planet’s finest displaying of the yr near dawn. Mercury is by far probably the most elusive of the intense planets because it by no means strays too removed from our star, whether or not it seems within the post-sunset night sky, because it did final May, or as now within the pre-dawn sky.

Mercury’s and Earth’s positions for the interval following Mercury’s inferior conjunction on 9 October 2021 (labelled 1), when the planet is out of view. This month’s biggest western elongation (2) is Mercury’s most beneficial morning displaying of 2021. Mercury then passes by way of superior conjunction on 29 November 2021 (3), and biggest japanese elongation on 7 January 2022 (4).

Mercury will be discovered within the east-south-eastern sky among the many stars of Virgo. From the south of England, Mercury lies practically 11 levels above the horizon by the onset of civil twilight (when the Sun lies lower than six levels beneath the horizon) shortly after 7am BST (06:00 UT). The planet lies at roughly the identical elevation for a similar diploma of twilight throughout the UK.

Mercury’s shyness will be largely be accounted for by its proximity to the horizon, even when it’s finest positioned. The planet typically shines surprisingly brightly, so it may be straightforward to identify in the event you can safe a good view of the place within the sky it’s positioned. For city and metropolis dwellers, the view of Mercury can simply be obstructed by bushes and buildings.

Mercury shines brightly at magnitude –0.5 at round biggest elongation, when it peaks in altitude, and goes on to brighten marginally to magnitude –0.8 to –0.9, its peak brightness at this apparition when its seen within the pre-dawn sky. Of course, atmospheric extinction is a menace this near the horizon and can take the sting of Mercury’s brightness, as will any low-level haziness. Bring alongside a pair of binoculars simply in case if you’re planning a subject journey to look at Mercury.

Through a small telescope, Mercury reveals a half-phase like a last-quarter Moon at biggest elongation. As it heads again westwards in the direction of superior conjunction on the far aspect of the Sun on 29 November, Mercury’s phase will swell as its disc will get smaller.

Mercury will present roughly the same phase on 27 October. This picture was shot on 27 April 2018, when Mercury sported a 40 per cent-illuminated phase and spanned 8.3″. Image: D. Peach/Chilescope workforce.

Mercury stays on present within the pre-dawn sky for the primary two weeks of November, though after the top of the primary week it lies simply 5 levels up initially of civil twilight at about 6.30am GMT from London.

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