The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Great Chance to See Mercury and Jupiter

Mercury is a difficult planet to observe.  It rarely ventures far from the Sun and is frequently lost in twilight. The next couple of nights, bright Jupiter serves as a useful marker to find Mercury as they have a nice close conjunction.  Here is a finder chart.Although they are close together in the night sky, they are nowhere close to each other in space.  Jupiter is on the far side of the Sun over 550 million miles from Earth.  Jupiter is getting lower in the sky each evening.  Mercury is moving away from the Sun in the sky and getting higher each night.  Mercury is about 100 million miles away.

Mercury will be farthest from the Sun on March 23rd.  Near the spring equinox is the best time to observe Mercury in the evening since the ecliptic makes a very steep angle with the horizon for observers in the northern hemisphere.  You can watch it get higher in the sky each night until about the 23rd when it will turn around and head back toward the Sun.

March 14, 2011 - Posted by | Observing, Solar System

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