© NASA/JPL/MESSENGER

Mercury at dichotomy

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

Objects: Mercury
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Mercury will reach half phase in its Feb–Apr 2001 morning apparition. It will be shining brightly at mag 0.1.

From Ashburn , this apparition will not be one of the most prominent and very difficult to observe, reaching a peak altitude of 12° above the horizon at sunrise on 5 Mar 2001.

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Feb–Apr 2001 morning apparition of Mercury

12 Feb 2001 – Mercury at inferior solar conjunction
28 Feb 2001 – Mercury at highest altitude in morning sky
07 Mar 2001 – Mercury at dichotomy
10 Mar 2001 – Mercury at greatest elongation west
23 Apr 2001 – Mercury at superior solar conjunction

A graph of the phase of Mercury is available here.

Apparitions of Mercury

06 Oct 2000 – Evening apparition
15 Nov 2000 – Morning apparition
28 Jan 2001 – Evening apparition
10 Mar 2001 – Morning apparition
22 May 2001 – Evening apparition
09 Jul 2001 – Morning apparition
18 Sep 2001 – 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 21h30m30s 14°51'S Capricornus 7.6"
Sun 23h13m -04°59' Aquarius 32'13"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 23 January 2022
Sunrise
07:21
Sunset
17:19
Twilight ends
18:53
Twilight begins
05:48

21-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

59%

21 days old

Planets
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.

Source

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

01 Mar 2001  –  Mercury at highest altitude in morning sky
10 Mar 2001  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
20 May 2001  –  Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky
22 May 2001  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east

Image credit

© NASA/JPL/MESSENGER

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