Mercury at Inferior Conjunction

orbital-positions   Wednesday August 8th the innermost planet Mercury reaches inferior conjunction. At inferior conjunction Mercury will move between the Earth and the Sun – much like the position of the Moon at new phase. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

   At this inferior conjunction Mercury will not be directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon, Mercury during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). For this inferior conjunction Mercury will be 7o south, its maximum latitude south from of the ecliptic.

   
   
   

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Planet-A-Palooza plus the Moon

   This is one of those ‘best of times’ with regard to planet viewing. All of the visible planets are above the horizon although Mercury sets just before Mars rises. Times like this make it easy to visualize the ecliptic and its relationship with the planets. And our Moon, as it waxes toward full phase over the next several days, will pass by several planets and dwarf planets.

Click on a graphic to start a slide show.

   
   
   

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Moon in Conjunction with Venus


   Sunday evening July 15th the 3-day young waxing crescent Moon will be 2o from Venus, and 5o from the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Further to the east are the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars.


   The three, Moon, Venus, and Regulus, all fit comfortably within a binocular field of view.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Mercury at Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions    On Thursday July 12th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest eastern elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – from superior conjunction, behind the Sun, out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward through (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   Currently Mercury is visible over the western horizon at sunset local time. Joining Mercury are the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Mars rises about an hour after Mercury sets.
   
   
   

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Venus-Regulus Conjunction


   Monday evening July 9th the inner planet Venus will be within about 1o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. Through binoculars or with a camera the close conjunction should prove to be worth taking a look. Joining Venus to the west is the other inner planet, Mercury, and to the east are the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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Mercury and the Bees

   Late Wednesday evening July 4th the innermost planet Mercury will be within 0.5-1o from the open star cluster M-44, or more commonly known as the Beehive Cluster in Cancer the Crab. Both will be only 10-15o from the horizon and cold be a challenge to see. With binoculars the planet and star cluster should look good.

   
   
   

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An Evening Astronomical ‘2-fer’

   Monday evening June 25th the planet Mercury will be about 5o from Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins stars. They will be low over the western horizon following sunset but with a clear horizon should be visible.
   Also, after a couple of hours later turn toward the southeast to see the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon rising within about 8-9o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Further east is one of the ringed planets, Saturn, and the ‘Red Planet’ Mars.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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