Friday, April 8, 2011

Elusive Mercury visible this week, 09.17.10

Mercury, the planet closest to our star, the sun, will be visible until about Wednesday, the 23rd, just before dawn. Mercury is in this prime viewing position only two times a year.

Most skywatchers never get to see Mercury because it is often obscured by the light from the Sun, but this week Mercury is just far enough away that it can be viewed in the eastern horizon just before sunrise, weather permitting.

Image credit: and Starry Night Software.
For the best opportunity at viewing Mercury, go to a place with a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern sky about half an hour before sunrise. Geoff Gaherty of Starry Night Education suggests using your fist as a measure of degrees to help locate Mercury. He says that a “human fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of the sky,” so hold your fist out just about the land’s horizon and look over the top of your fist to see Mercury. Binoculars are suggested to help you find it at first. If you are viewing Mercury with a telescope, it will appear in the shape of a crescent moon.

Credit:, Starry Night Education, Geoff Gaherty.

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