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Mercury at perihelion

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

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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 14h45m10s -14°26' Libra 9.3"
Sun 15h23m -18°35' Libra 32'20"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From Washington, Mercury will not be readily observable since it will be very close to the Sun, at a separation of only 10° from it.

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 15 November 2019
Sunrise
07:11
Sunset
17:23
Twilight ends
18:53
Twilight begins
05:41

18-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

86%

18 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:25 11:42 16:59
Venus 09:13 13:59 18:44
Moon 20:16 02:40 09:55
Mars 05:05 10:38 16:11
Jupiter 09:50 14:38 19:25
Saturn 11:14 16:05 20:56
All times shown in MST.

Warning

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.

Source

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

11 Nov 2019  –  Transit of Mercury
28 Nov 2019  –  Mercury reaches highest point in morning sky
28 Nov 2019  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
10 Feb 2020  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east

Image credit

None available.

Washington

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

37.13°N
113.51°W
MST

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