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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 22h46m40s -06°29' Aquarius 7.4"
Sun 21h40m -13°57' Capricornus 32'24"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

From Cambridge, Mercury will be difficult to observe as it will appear no higher than 12° above the horizon. It will become visible around 17:33 (EST) as the dusk sky fades, 12° above your western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 1 hour and 35 minutes after the Sun at 18:42.

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The sky on 12 February 2020
Sunrise
06:45
Sunset
17:11
Twilight ends
18:46
Twilight begins
05:11

19-day old moon
Waning Gibbous

88%

19 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:24 13:04 18:44
Venus 08:26 14:36 20:47
Moon 21:41 02:43 08:58
Mars 03:34 08:04 12:34
Jupiter 04:51 09:25 14:00
Saturn 05:27 10:09 14:51
All times shown in EST.

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

12 Feb 2020  –  Mercury at perihelion
25 Feb 2020  –  Mercury at inferior solar conjunction
18 Mar 2020  –  Mercury reaches highest point in morning sky
22 Mar 2020  –  Mercury at dichotomy

Image credit

None available.

Cambridge

Latitude:
Longitude:
Timezone:

42.38°N
71.11°W
EST

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