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  • Rapt in Awe

    My Journey through the Astronomical Year

    Think of this as a "companion text" to this, the main web site. Not required reading, butI hope you'll find it interesting and helpful.

Here comes Mercury – zip – there goes Mercury!

Fleet messenger that he is, Mercury put in a very nice appearance during the last half of this month and should be quite easy to find if you look on the right date and the right time in the right place.

For example, from Westport, MA on April 16 at 8 pm EDST we will find Mercury in Aries at Azimuth 285 degrees and Altitude 9 degrees – in other words about a fist and half north of due west and about a fist above the horizon and in the twilight sky shining at close to magnitude -1. That means it will look almost as bright as Rigel and Aldebaran, two bright stars in the general region that it will form a triangle with. (Technically, Mercury is  tad brighter – but those stars are higher and in darker sky, so they’ll be easier to see than Mercury which will, of course, be nearer the Sun. )

mercury_09

For the next 30 minutes we get one of those interesting races – assuming we have clear skies to the West – where Mercury rushes towards the horizon – making it harder to see – but at the same time the sky around it gets darker – making it easier to see. By 8:30, though, it will be less than 4 degrees above the horizon – and that usually is too low to see unless you have a really unobstructed and clear horizon.

There are other days, however – and the general rule will apply. Start looking a half hour after sunset, look just to the north of west, and expect to see it roughly 10 degrees above the horizon. This will hold true right up to about May 4. SOme other highlights of this appearance:

April 26 – Mercury will have climbed to about 13-degrees above the horizon a half hour after sunset and the 2-day – very thin – crescent moon will be just 4 degrees above it.  Nice photo op!

April 29, 30 – Bincoulars or a small telescope at low power will show that Mercury has joined up with the Pleiades – just one degree to its north as they both move closer to the horizon. Start viewing baout 8:10 om EDST.

May 4 – Now, half an hour after Sunset (8:16 pm EDST in Westport, MA) Merucry is a bit less than 10 degrees above the horizon. With each day it will get more difficult to see.  So long little messenger – hope you bring good news to everyone! See you inthe dawn sky shortly!

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2 Responses

  1. […] of the month because it’s generally so elusive, but this is an especially good appearance. See this post for description and chart. Click for larger […]

  2. […] charming in binoculars. Looking at them in relation to Mercury, it’s hard to believe that by the end of the month you’ll be able to see both the Pleiades and Mercury in the same binocu….  That little planet does get around! […]

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