Mercury at dichotomy

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

Objects: Mercury
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Mercury will reach half phase in its May–Jul 2019 evening apparition. It will be shining brightly at mag 0.1.

From Fairfield , this apparition will be well placed but tricky to observe, reaching a peak altitude of 16° above the horizon at sunset on 19 Jun 2019.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

May–Jul 2019 evening apparition of Mercury

21 May 2019 – Mercury at superior solar conjunction
17 Jun 2019 – Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky
17 Jun 2019 – Mercury at dichotomy
23 Jun 2019 – Mercury at greatest elongation east
21 Jul 2019 – Mercury at inferior solar conjunction

The table below lists the altitude of Mercury at sunset over the course of the apparition. All times are given in Fairfield local time.

Date Sun
sets at
sets at
at sunset
at sunset
Mag Phase
28 May 201920:1720:55north-west-1.594%
31 May 201920:1821:18north-west-1.289%
03 Jun 201920:2221:3311°north-west-0.982%
06 Jun 201920:2321:4713°west-0.775%
09 Jun 201920:2421:5615°west-0.568%
12 Jun 201920:2922:0515°west-0.362%
15 Jun 201920:3022:0816°west-0.156%
18 Jun 201920:3022:1016°west0.150%
21 Jun 201920:3122:0716°west0.344%
24 Jun 201920:3222:0415°west0.439%
27 Jun 201920:3322:0014°west0.734%
30 Jun 201920:3021:5113°west0.928%
03 Jul 201920:3121:3711°west1.323%
06 Jul 201920:3221:26west1.718%
09 Jul 201920:2821:10west2.213%

Mercury will fade rapidly towards the end of the apparition as it heads towards inferior conjunction, when it will pass between the Earth and Sun. At inferior conjunction, the planet turns its unilluminated side towards the Earth, and so appears as a thin, barely illuminated crescent.

Since Mercury can only ever be observed in twilight, it is particularly difficult to find when it is in a thin crescent phase. Thus, it will be significantly easier to see in the days before it reaches its highest point in the sky than in the days after.

Altitude of Mercury at sunset

A graph of the phase of Mercury is available here.

Apparitions of Mercury

15 Dec 2018 – Morning apparition
26 Feb 2019 – Evening apparition
11 Apr 2019 – Morning apparition
23 Jun 2019 – Evening apparition
09 Aug 2019 – Morning apparition
19 Oct 2019 – Evening apparition
28 Nov 2019 – Morning 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 07h29m50s 23°18'N Gemini 7.3"
Sun 05h44m +23°23' Taurus 31'29"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 17 June 2019
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

14-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


14 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:08 14:41 22:13
Venus 04:24 11:47 19:10
Moon 19:53 00:46 05:36
Mars 07:11 14:41 22:12
Jupiter 19:45 00:24 05:04
Saturn 21:52 02:34 07:15
All times shown in EDT.


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

18 Jun 2019  –  Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky
23 Jun 2019  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east
09 Aug 2019  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
13 Aug 2019  –  Mercury at highest altitude in morning sky

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