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Seeing Mercury, Finding it in Earth's sky
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post Jul 22 2008, 03:21 AM
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QUOTE (ElkGroveDan @ Jul 21 2008, 05:15 PM) *
48 miles, dude.


Yeah? Pretty dark there? Seems kind of close.


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dvandorn
post Jul 22 2008, 04:54 AM
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I've only seen Mercury once, to my knowledge -- via telescopic projection during a transit of the Sun back in (IIRC) spring of 1973. I believe Mercury was in mid-transit at sunrise.

As such, of course, I have no commentary on color... smile.gif

-the other Doug


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ilbasso
post Jul 22 2008, 08:04 PM
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The first time I saw Mercury was during the May 9, 1970 transit. (That was a great year for my amateur astronomy! I also got to see the March 7, 1970 total solar eclipse!) I have seen Mercury 6 or 7 times since then, never telescopically, but usually when driving just after sunset and when there is a clear view of the western horizon. It is brighter than one would expect.


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JRehling
post Jul 22 2008, 09:15 PM
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Another bit of luck was when I arrived home near sunset one fine November day in Indiana, noticed that the Sun was, unusually, not setting into clouds, set up my solar projection and witnessed the transit that I knew was occurring but was too pessimistic to have expected clear skies for.

I think the unstated factor that truly makes Mercury challenging is that the near-horizon sky is statistically more likely to be cloudy, because of the longer lines of sight. Otherwise, even in a big city, it's just a matter of timing. It's one of the five brightest sky objects (sometimes) and it appears several degrees above the horizon at least a couple of times a year. Clouds are the only real enemy. In a continental climate, this may favor morning observations over evening (?). I used to think of Mercury as easy pickings on a winter morning. Assuming you're willing to go outside when it's cold and an indecent hour for being out of bed.
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ElkGroveDan
post Jul 22 2008, 09:32 PM
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This might be a good time for someone who uses all that sky viewing software to post a few predicted dates and places for optimum viewing of Mercury (...he said with lazy anticipation of hard work done by others.)


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Stu
post Jul 22 2008, 09:47 PM
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Mercury will be putting on a pretty good show in middle to late August, when it will be an evening object, low in the west after sunset. On the evening of the 14th it will lie at the right end of a line of 4 planets: Mars... Venus, Saturn and mercury will all be on view together, with Venus, Saturn and Mercury quite close together hanging just above the treetops. On the last day of August Mercury, Mars and Venus will form a triangle low in the WSW, arranged Mars (highest)... Mercury (lowest) and Venus (brightest).

In December Mercury will be a dusk object again, visible low in the SW. Obn the evening of dec 28-29th we'll see a sickle thin crescent Moon just above the horizon, with Mercury just above it and Jupiter just above mercury, a great photo op! Then on Dec 30-31st Mercury and Jupiter will be very, very close together, and visible in the same binocular field of view... :-)


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nprev
post Jul 23 2008, 02:13 AM
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QUOTE (JRehling @ Jul 22 2008, 02:15 PM) *
I think the unstated factor that truly makes Mercury challenging is that the near-horizon sky is statistically more likely to be cloudy, because of the longer lines of sight. Otherwise, even in a big city, it's just a matter of timing.


I'll buy off on that for sunset views before all the lights come on. I drive to work @ 5:00AM here in LA, and honestly you just can't see a damn thing except at zenith then. It's better in the South Bay area near the coast, though.


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mchan
post Jul 23 2008, 06:22 AM
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QUOTE (JRehling @ Jul 22 2008, 01:15 PM) *
In a continental climate, this may favor morning observations over evening (?). I used to think of Mercury as easy pickings on a winter morning. Assuming you're willing to go outside when it's cold and an indecent hour for being out of bed.

The few times I have seen it have always been on cold, cold mornings with the air clear and crisp. The first time, I woke up and climbed a hill to see it. The other times were because I had to be up early and had been alerted by the Sky and Telescope diagrams.
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elakdawalla
post Jul 23 2008, 12:14 PM
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I just moved a bunch of posts from the "Mercury mosaics" topic here.

--Emily


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PDP8E
post Jul 23 2008, 02:23 PM
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Thanks Emily!

(if i knew how to do, I would have too, after seeing those posts stack up!)


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bkellysky
post Oct 15 2008, 09:22 PM
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According to Sky and Telescope, the next two weeks, starting on October 17, will be reasonably good for finding Mercury.
It'll be up in the morning sky before sunrise. Look where the sky is brightening, it won't be more than 10 degrees (about a fist at arm's length) above the horizon. The best time is 60 to 45 minutes before sunrise. Mercury will appear farthest from the Sun about October 22nd and brightest a few days afterward.

Attached is a photo I took of Mercury (at far lower left just above a house) and Jupiter (far upper right) in the morning sky during December 2005 near my house north of New York City. Canon A40 on tripod, cropped from a larger photo. Mercury was about 11 degrees above the horizon at that time.
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bkellysky
post Oct 18 2008, 01:38 AM
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For information about finding Mercury in the dawn sky over the next two weeks, check out the write-up at This Week's Sky at a Glance at the Sky and Telescope web site..... at skyandtelescope.com

They have a good diagram that shows where to look for Mercury (plus Saturn, which is further above the horizon and, in about a week, the Moon).


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bkellysky
post Oct 24 2008, 11:25 AM
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Attached is a photo I took from the top of the parking deck at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, New York on Thursday morning. Five second exposure with my Canon A40 on a tripod.

Mercury is just visible on the full size version, between the center set of poles at the bottom of the photo. It was easy to see with the unaided eye. The short line well above Mercury is the International Space Station streaking across the sky. The streak of lights on the lower right is an aircraft.

The moon is moving further down toward the horizon each morning, hanging out with Saturn and then Mercury over the weekend. In my area, the northeastern United States, the ISS is making good appearances in the morning sky for the next week or so. Check out heavens-above.com or spaceweather.com for predictions for your location.


all the best,
bob
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Guest_PhilCo126_*
post Oct 24 2008, 05:07 PM
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Good news for those who want to spot the first rock from the Sun:
December 31, 2008 = conjunction of planets Jupiter and Mercury.
The year closes with Jupiter and Mercury appearing after sunset a little more than one degree apart in constellation Sagittarius. Jupiter will be magnitude -1.95 and Mercury -0.67. As a bonus, Mecury will be a mere 15 arcminutes from the globular cluster M75. Use binoculars to catch Jupiter, Mercury, and the magnitude 8.6 cluster in one view.

By The Way, if You know where exactly to look, You can see some planets in daylights if these don't appear too close to the Sun.
Use FREE software such as STELLARIUM which give online up-to-date information from Your viewpoint...
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bkellysky
post Oct 27 2008, 11:48 PM
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Thanks for the heads up. I'm looking forward to helping people find Mercury in December with Jupiter as a pointer!

In the meantime, attached is a photo of a scene of the Moon with Mercury to its upper left. I took this at 6:25 am this morning (October 27th) with my Canon A40 on a tripod. 10 second exposure, 3x optical zoom. On my monitor, I can see the earthshine on the unsunlit part of the Moon.

At that time, the Moon was only 4 degrees above the horizon. (At least a normal horizon, since I was 6 levels up on a parking garage, the apparent altitude from where I was standing may be a bit higher.)

The Moon will already have moved on away from Mercury by the time you see this, but Mercury is still getting brighter, even though you'll need a clear view of the eastern sky to see it.

bob


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