Elusive Mercury reaches its peak visibility and brightly shines in the dawn sky within the next ten days. How to observe Mercury these days and when is the planet visible in the sky? Read on to find out all about the planet Mercury in the last decade of July 2020.
Mercury at greatest western elongation
The closest planet to the Sun, Mercury, will reach its greatest western elongation on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at 22:23 GMT, shining at a magnitude of 0.1 in the sky this day. It means that the planet will reach a maximum angle of 20 degrees from the Sun and appear farthest from it as viewed from the Earth, being at its peak visibility for this morning apparition.
As Mercury’s orbit is close to the Sun, the planet appears mostly lost in its dazzling light. But approximately every 3–4 months Mercury reaches its greatest separation from the Solar System’s blazing star as viewed from the Earth. These periods are called Mercury’s greatest elongations and provide observers with the best chance to see this elusive planet. In greatest western elongation the planet is visible before sunrise.
According to Chris Vaughan, canadian astronomer and geophysicist, Mercury, the smallest planet in the Solar System, is sitting very low in the east-northeastern sky between about 5 and 5:30 a.m. in your local time zone. Mercury is much easier to observe from the Southern hemisphere and near the Equator due to its position below the morning ecliptic. The planet shines among the stars of the constellation Gemini these days.
To visualize the phenomenon of a planet’s elongation and location of planets relative to each other in actual space, use the digital guide Solar Walk 2. Explore the Universe and planets with Solar Walk 2, the amazing interactive 3D model of the Solar system. Travel across the Universe and learn more about celestial objects and space in real time without visiting a planetarium!
Phases of Mercury
Mercury will reach half phase or dichotomy in its 2020 morning apparition on Sunday, July 26, at 09:12 GMT shining at a magnitude of -0.3. Mercury’s position relative to the Earth determines phases of the planet, which are similar to those of the Moon. While passing between the Sun and the Earth, Mercury shows its dark side to our planet. On the contrary, when Mercury lies opposite to the Earth, its sunlit hemisphere is turned towards it. Dichotomy is the half phase, during which the half of Mercury’s Earth-facing side is illuminated by the Sun.
Remember to use proper solar filters while looking directly, through a telescope or binoculars at the Sun and objects close to it in order to prevent serious eye damage or blindness.
Wishing you clear skies and happy stargazing!