See Elusive Planet Mercury at Dawn By Jeff DeTray from AstronomyBoy.com
Spot the elusive planet Mercury in the east before sunrise! It’s a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the Sun’s innermost planet.
Pass the sun-block!
Can’t you see,
It’s really bright,
Cried Mercury . .
–Mr. R.’s World of Science (online)
Mercury ís brave
close to the sun
lost in its glare
how quickly it runs
Poems devoted to the planet Mercury are few and far between, but they share common themes. They typically refer either to Mercury’s extreme relationship with the Sun or its speedy movement through the sky—or both. Mercury is closer to the Sun than any other planet and thus endures a surface temperature of up to 800°F. Sunblock, indeed! And Mercury is fast! It whips around the Sun once every 88 days, compared to our Earth’s 365 days. The ancient Romans noted how swiftly Mercury moves across the sky and named it for the fleet-footed Messenger of the Gods.
It’s a testament to the exquisite observing skills of ancient astronomers that they ever noticed Mercury at all. From our Earthly perspective, the innermost planet never ventures very far from the Sun; you have to know exactly when and where to look.
Spot Mercury Before Dawn
Fortunately, August brings the best opportunity to see the elusive planet. Mercury rises before the Sun all of this month, and is surprisingly easy to see from now through August 27.
The planet attains a greatest elongation 19 degrees west of the Sun on August 9.
So, the several mornings before and after August 9 are the best times to see Mercury with the eye alone.
•Go outside 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise. Consult the Almanac’s Sunrise and Sunset Calculator to find the exact time of sunrise for your location. With sunrise not far away, the sky will be brightening quickly, so don’t be late!
•Look to the east-southeast, low in the sky for a bright yellowish-orange “star.” If the skies are clear, you should even be able to see Mercury without a telescope for the planet is a bright as a 1st-magnitude star.
More about Mercury
Exploratory spacecraft have visited Mercury only twice!
1.In 1974–75, NASA’s Mariner 10 probe made three flybys of Mercury, sending back the first close-up photos and discovering that the tiny planet has its own magnetic field, a finding that surprised researchers.
2.Then, in 2011, NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft reached Mercury and went into orbit around it. MESSENGER spent the next four years collecting science data and making thousands of high-resolution photographs of Mercury. The MESSENGER photo reproduced on this month’s sky map shows how closely Mercury resembles the Moon, at least on its surface.
A third spacecraft is currently on its way to Mercury! BepiColombo is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency. The mission carries two separate probes, which will separate from one another once BepiColombo reaches Mercury in 2025.
Fortunately, you won’t have to wait that long to undertake your own exploration of Mercury. You merely have to wake up before dawn on August 9 or 10 (or thereabouts) to see the hot and speedy planet for yourself.
https://www.almanac.com/content/sky-map-august- to see a map of the sky to find Mercury
till next time, this is Becky Litterer, Becky's Greenhouse Dougherty Iowa firstname.lastname@example.org