Mercury at perihelion

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

Mercury's 88-day orbit around the Sun will carry it to its closest point to the Sun – its perihelion – at a distance of 0.31 AU from the Sun.

Unlike most of the planets, which follow almost exactly circular orbits around the Sun only varying in their distance from the Sun by a few percent, Mercury has a significantly elliptical orbit.

Its distance from the Sun varies between 0.307 AU at perihelion (closest approach to the Sun), and 0.467 AU at aphelion (furthest recess from the Sun). This variation, of over 50%, means that its surface receives over twice as much energy from the Sun at perihelion as compared to aphelion.

However, this makes little difference to Mercury's telescopic appearance, since little if any detail on its surface can be resolved by ground-based telescopes. Although its changing seasons have an incredible effect upon its surface temperatures, there is little change that is visible to amateur observers.

The position of Mercury at the moment it passes perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Mercury 22h15m30s -09°29' Aquarius 7.8"
Sun 21h09m -16°22' Capricornus 32'26"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From Ashburn, Mercury will be difficult to observe as it will appear no higher than 10° above the horizon. It will become visible around 18:00 (EDT) as the dusk sky fades, 10° above your western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 1 hour and 30 minutes after the Sun at 19:02.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.
The sky on 03 February 2014
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

4-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


4 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:58 13:29 19:01
Venus 05:01 10:10 15:20
Moon 09:25 15:43 22:02
Mars 23:03 04:47 10:28
Jupiter 14:39 22:04 05:32
Saturn 01:29 06:38 11:47
All times shown in EST.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 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

03 Feb 2014  –  Mercury reaches highest point in evening sky
04 Mar 2014  –  Mercury reaches highest point in morning sky
14 Mar 2014  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
22 May 2014  –  Mercury reaches highest point in evening sky

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