© NASA/JPL/MESSENGER

Mercury at superior solar conjunction

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

Objects: Mercury
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The sky at

Mercury will pass very close to the Sun in the sky as its orbit carries it around the far side of the solar system from the Earth.

This occurs once in every synodic cycle of the planet (116 days), and marks the end of Mercury's apparition in the morning sky and its transition to become an evening object over the next few weeks.

At closest approach, Mercury will appear at a separation of only 1°45' from the Sun, making it totally unobservable for several weeks while it is lost in the Sun's glare.

Mercury will also pass apogee – the time when it is most distant from the Earth – at around the same time, since it will lie exactly opposite to the Earth in the Solar System. It will move to a distance of 1.35 AU from the Earth, making it appear small and very distant. If it could be observed, it would measure 5.0 arcsec in diameter, whilst appearing completely illuminated.

The exact position of Mercury at the moment it passes solar conjunction will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Mercury 09h51m00s +14°53' Leo 5.0"
Sun 09h48m +13°13' Leo 31'35"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 17 August 2020
Sunrise
06:25
Sunset
20:02
Twilight ends
21:41
Twilight begins
04:46

28-day old moon
Waning Crescent

2%

28 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:23 13:16 20:09
Venus 02:52 10:04 17:17
Moon 04:40 12:00 19:20
Mars 22:37 05:01 11:22
Jupiter 17:57 22:42 03:31
Saturn 18:27 23:17 04:11
All times shown in EDT.

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 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

17 Aug 2020  –  Mercury at superior solar conjunction
18 Sep 2020  –  Mercury reaches highest point in evening sky
18 Sep 2020  –  Mercury at aphelion
01 Oct 2020  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east

Image credit

© NASA/JPL/MESSENGER

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