How to See Mercury – We have been over on how to see the fourth planet of the solar system Mars and how to see it through a telescope. But how about the first planet of our solar system Mercury? Unlike Mars, seeing Mercury is a little more complicated.
The reason why Mercury is harder to spot is that it is closer to the sun. This, however, doesn’t mean we still can’t find Mercury with our telescopes! A positive thing with Mercury is that the solar proximity of Mercury is a fast orbit compared to other planets.
The approximate number of Mars going around the sun is about 88 days, which gives us a few times to see it (though it is short viewing).
Another note with viewing Mercury that is different is the time it can be seen: unlike other planets, constellations, etc.
that you can see during the night time, you can only see Mercury during dawn and dusk because of it being closer to the sun (you can still see it, but it won’t be too visible for you to see).
But don’t let these downsides stop you from finding Mercury.
This article will be covering how to see Mercury, when to look for it, and where to find it.
When is Mercury Visible?
When finding Mercury, Mercury is the brightest (at -1.9). Mercury has “greatest elongation”, a term referring to when Mercury reaches its maximum separation from the sun. The approximate number of Mercury can go is about 28 degrees from the sun.
To see that visually, hold your arm out straight in front of you. Then with your fist, open it so your little finger and thumb are stretched as far they can go with the other fingers curled down. Both of your fingers will span about 25 degrees.
With this in mind, Mercury is at 12 degrees from the sun. This means Mercury is only visible before sunrise or after sunset. If you want the exact dates and times of when to view Mercury, here are the four dates :
- June 23- after sunset
- August 9-before sunrise
- October 20-after sunset
- November 28-before sunrise
How to See Mercury
If you want to know how to see Mercury, there is one warning when looking for it. Do not look for Mercury when the sun is still out or immediately before sunrise. The sun can destroy your telescope, but it can also be harmful to your eyes.
With that warning out of the way, let us explore the different ways on how to see Mercury!
How to Find Mercury in the Night Sky?
Before you go out to see Mercury, you need to know the right time Mercury will be out. If you need help with this, you can check out a guide online that can help you with when planets are going to be out (here is one: http://bit.ly/39vcfg1.) Other things you should consider before viewing Mercury are:
- Dawn Visibility : If you are viewing Mercury in April, August, and November, it will be visible in the Eastern sky, rising between an hour or so before sunrise. Visibility depends on latitude, season, and the planet’s magnitude. Specific dates for viewing Mercury are August 9th and November 28th.
August 9th is tricky because Mercury will be 8 degrees above the horizon and 45 minutes before sunrise.
However, November 28th is a better date to see the planet, with Mercury being 10 degrees above East and 45 minutes before sunrise.
- Dusk Visibility : February, June, and October are months that are best for Mercury. Specific dates for Mercury during dusk are June 23rd and October 20th. The best date compared to the two is June 23rd, at 9 degrees 45 minutes after sunset on latitude 45 degrees.
Finding Mercury Without a Telescope
If you don’t have a telescope, here are the best dates/times depending on Mercurys elongation:
- Morning Apparition (Western Elongation): August 9th: Look 19 degrees from the sun and look towards Cancer. Its best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. November 28th: look 20 degrees from the sun and look towards Libra. Best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere.
- Evening Apparition (Evening Apparition): June 23: Look 25 degrees from the sun towards Gemini. October 20th: 24 degrees from the sun towards Libra. Both dates are best viewed in the Southern Hemisphere.
Finding Mercury with A Small Telescope
If you have a small telescope, spot Mercury with your eye then once you find it, move your telescope to it. Make sure to use your finderscope as this will give a wider range view of Mercury. Get the crosshairs in the center of Mercury.
Much like the Moon, Mercury has phases. When Mercury is in conjunctions (like Inferior, when the Earth, Sun, and Mercury are aligned or superior, when it is on the opposite side of the sun), visibility is hard.
The first and last quarter phases, however, are the best visibility times because it equals both Eastern and Western elongations!
If you use these steps on how to see Mercury, then you are guaranteed to observe the planet!
How to see Mercury is not as easy as finding other planets because it is the planet closest to the sun.
However, the phases of Mercury is something you want to experience. So by all means, follow these instructions on how to see Mercury in the sky!