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|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
From Cambridge, Mercury will be difficult to observe as it will appear no higher than 10° above the horizon. It will become visible around 19:16 (EDT) as the dusk sky fades, 10° above your western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 1 hour and 21 minutes after the Sun at 20:18.
|The sky on 23 March 2017|
25 days old
All times shown in EDT.
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.
|23 Mar 2017||– Mercury at perihelion|
|30 Mar 2017||– Mercury at dichotomy|
|01 Apr 2017||– Mercury at greatest elongation east|
|02 Apr 2017||– Mercury reaches highest point in evening sky|