The Moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter, with the Very Large Telescope in the foreground. Image © Y. Beletsky, ESO, 2009.

Lunar occultation of Mercury

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Lunar Occultations feed

Objects: Mercury
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The Moon will pass in front of Mercury, creating a lunar occultation visible from parts of Northern America.

Lunar occultations are only ever visible from a small fraction of the Earth's surface. Since the Moon is much closer to the Earth than other celestial objects, its exact position in the sky differs depending on your exact location on Earth due to its large parallax. The position of the Moon as seen from two points on opposite sides of the Earth varies by up to two degrees, or four times the diameter of the full moon.

This means that if the Moon is aligned to pass in front of a particular object for an observer on one side of the Earth, it will appear up to two degrees away from that object on the other side of the Earth.

On this occasion, the occultation will be visible from Fairfield. It will begin with the disappearance of Mercury behind the Moon at 15:45 EDT, though In daylight. Its reappearance will be visible at 16:41 EDT, though In daylight and at a low altitude of 5.3 degrees.

Extreme caution is necessary when pointing binoculars or telescopes at the sky when the Sun is above the horizon, as even a momentary glance at the Sun through such an instrument can cause permanent blindness.

At the time of the occultation, the Moon will be 28 days past new moon and will be 2% illuminated. Mercury will disappear behind the illuminated side of the Moon and reappear from behind the unilluminated side of the Moon.

The map below shows the visibility of the occultation across the world. Separate contours show where the disappearance of Mercury is visible (shown in red), and where its reappearance is visible (shown in blue). Solid contours show where each event is likely to be visible through binoculars at a reasonable altitude in the sky. Dotted contours indicate where each event occurs above the horizon, but may not be visible due to the sky being too bright or the Moon being very close to the horizon.

Outside of the contours, the Moon does not pass in front of Mercury at any time, or is below the horizon at the time of the occultation.

The map below can be downloaded in PNG , PDF or SVG format. A KMZ file , is also available, which can be opened in Google Earth to provide a higher resolution map.

Map showing where the occultation is visible

The position of Mercury at the moment of the occultation will be as follows:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Mercury 13h40m30s 8°22'S Virgo -0.8 0'05"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 03 November 2021
Sunrise
07:24
Sunset
17:45
Twilight ends
19:19
Twilight begins
05:50

28-day old moon
Waning Crescent

0%

28 days old

Planets
Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:06 11:40 17:14
Venus 11:33 15:50 20:07
Moon 05:37 11:33 17:18
Mars 06:41 12:02 17:22
Jupiter 14:31 19:40 00:48
Saturn 13:45 18:38 23:30
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

24 Oct 2021  –  Mercury at greatest elongation west
07 Jan 2022  –  Mercury at greatest elongation east
10 Jan 2022  –  Mercury at highest altitude in evening sky
08 Feb 2022  –  Mercury at highest altitude in morning sky

Image credit

The Moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter, with the Very Large Telescope in the foreground. Image © Y. Beletsky, ESO, 2009.

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