Mercury at dichotomy

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

Objects: Mercury
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Mercury will reach half phase in its Mar–May 1986 morning apparition. It will be shining brightly at mag 0.2.

From Ashburn , this apparition will not be one of the most prominent and very difficult to observe, reaching a peak altitude of 10° above the horizon at sunrise on 9 Apr 1986.

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Mar–May 1986 morning apparition of Mercury

16 Mar 1986 – Mercury at inferior solar conjunction
08 Apr 1986 – Mercury at highest altitude in morning sky
13 Apr 1986 – Mercury at greatest elongation west
15 Apr 1986 – Mercury at dichotomy
22 May 1986 – Mercury at superior solar conjunction

A graph of the phase of Mercury is available here.

Apparitions of Mercury

08 Nov 1985 – Evening apparition
17 Dec 1985 – Morning apparition
28 Feb 1986 – Evening apparition
13 Apr 1986 – Morning apparition
25 Jun 1986 – Evening apparition
11 Aug 1986 – Morning apparition
21 Oct 1986 – Evening apparition

Observing Mercury

Mercury's orbit lies closer to the Sun than the Earth's, meaning that it always appears close to the Sun and is lost in the Sun's glare much of the time.

It is observable for only a few weeks each time it reaches greatest separation from the Sun – moments referred to as greatest elongation. These apparitions repeat roughly once every 3–4 months.

Mercury's phase

Mercury's phase varies depending on its position relative to the Earth. When it passes between the Earth and Sun, for example, the side that is turned towards the Earth is entirely unilluminated, like a new moon.

Conversely, when it lies opposite to the Earth in its orbit, passing almost behind the Sun, it appears fully illuminated, like a full moon. However, at this time it is also at its most distant from the Earth, so it is actually fainter than at other times.

Mercury shows an intermediate half phase – called dichotomy – at roughly the same moment that it appears furthest from the Sun, at greatest elongation. The exact times of the two events may differ by a few days, only because Mercury's orbit is not quite perfectly aligned with the ecliptic.

Mercury's position

The coordinates of Mercury when it reaches dichotomy will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Mercury 23h55m00s 3°03'S Pisces 7.6"
Sun 01h33m +09°44' Pisces 31'52"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 23 January 2022
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

21-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


21 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:06 12:14 17:23
Venus 05:36 10:45 15:54
Moon 22:05 04:27 10:38
Mars 05:14 09:54 14:33
Jupiter 08:58 14:26 19:54
Saturn 08:00 13:05 18:09
All times shown in EST.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

13 Apr 1986  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
20 Jun 1986  –  Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky
25 Jun 1986  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east
11 Aug 1986  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west

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