Catch The Elusive Planet Mercury After Sunset

( Keep up with the latest astronomical events in the free stargazing app Star Walk 2.)

How and where to see Mercury

Mercury will reach its greatest eastern elongation (greatest separation from the Sun) on Thursday, June 4, 2020, but will be easy to spot in the sky on the evenings of both June 3 and 4. At its greatest elongation, the planet will be 24 degrees east of the Sun. Observers will be able to see Mercury with the naked eye around 40–60 minutes after sunset. The innermost planet will shine at magnitude 0.4. It will rise not very high above the western horizon and will be located between two bright stars — Capella and Procyon.

( Locate Mercury and other celestial bodies in the sky with the free stargazing app Star Walk 2 for iOS and Android. )

Who will see the elusive planet?

This evening apparition of Mercury will favor the Northern Hemisphere observers. For skywatchers in the Southern Hemisphere, viewing conditions will be poor. It is difficult to view the planet in the Sun’s glare most of the time. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, use the opportunity to spot Mercury on June 3–4, 2020, as the planet will become fainter in the evening sky with each passing day.

What is elongation?

In astronomy, a planet’s elongation is the angular separation between the Sun and the planet, with Earth as the reference point. In other words, elongation is the angle between the Sun and the planet, as seen by an observer from Earth.

Eastern and western elongation

A planet can be at an eastern or western elongation. Since Mercury and Venus are always located near the Sun, we can only observe them in the evening or morning sky and never in the middle of the night.

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