Mercury Monday 3

Get up before sunup and look for the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. I’ve seem Mercury three times: once in transit when its black disk crossed the face of the sun in 1974, once about eight years ago on a clear evening in Nebraska, and once earlier this year through a telescope.

On the left is a simulated image from showing the sky next Sunday morning. The sliver of a crescent moon will be fairly close to the planet from our view.

There are three real rewards of planet-watching. One is obvious: bring a telescope and note the phase of Mercury. This week it will appear in a telescope with a half-circle shape. As the month proceeds, the planet will enlarge slightly and morph to a crescent.

Even if you don’t have a telescope, it’s fun to track a planet over a few to several weeks. The planet orbits the sun and moves noticeably against the background stars–if you come back night after night.

And in the internet age, you can also follow Mercury or another of your favorite planets online as studied by any number of probes from Earth.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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