Best Evening to See the Elusive Planet Mercury in the Sky. How, where, and when to view it.
Northern hemisphere observers will be presented with an excellent opportunity to view the elusive planet Mercury with the naked eye at its evening peak. Here are some details and observing tips.
Why it is difficult to see Mercury in the sky
Mercury is the smallest planet of the Solar system and the closest planet to the Sun, its orbit lies closer to the Sun than the Earth’s. The planet never strays too far from the Sun which makes it difficult to view Mercury in the Sun’s glare most of the time.
Who will see Mercury in February 2020
On certain occasions, the innermost Mercury can be easily identified in the sky even without optical aid. These occasions happen when the planet reaches its greatest separation from the Sun, the so-called greatest elongation. Mercury’s elongations occur once every 3–4 months. Depending on whether the planet lies to the east of the Sun or the west, it appears in the morning or evening skies.
On Monday evening, February 10, 2020, Mercury will reach its greatest eastern elongation of 18 degrees of the Sun. That evening, those who live in the Northern hemisphere will have a chance to spot the elusive planet with their own eyes. Mercury will reach its peak visibility in 2020 for Northern Hemisphere observers. Viewers in the Southern Hemisphere will see Mercury in the morning sky in late March and early April.
When, where and how to look
Start looking for Mercury on February 10 just after sunset. You will find the planet low above the southwestern horizon. The best viewing time to see Mercury will be between 6 pm and 7 pm local time. It will be shining brightly at magnitude -0.5 and will be easily seen with unaided eyes, but you can use binoculars or a small telescope to take a closer look at the planet’s disk. Mercury will set about 1 hour, 40 minutes after the Sun.
All you need to spot the innermost planet is a clear sky and an open unobstructed horizon. The stargazing app Star Walk 2 will help you easily and quickly identify Mercury in the sky and enjoy its stunning evening appearance from the beginning to the end.
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Keep looking up and enjoy the sky!