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Mercury in June 2012 June 20, 2012

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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Happy solstice!

If you haven’t seen Mercury yet this year, get out there at sunset and look west. It’s fading fast! A pair of binoculars will help, but make sure the Sun is truly down (it’s all fun and games until…)

It was at it’s brightest at the end of May, but that was also conjunction, when it’s too close to the Sun to observe.  Although much dimmer now, it is also much farther from the Sun. Look for it along with crescent Moon and the twins Castor and Pollux in the WNW tonight (June 20) through Friday. You may need binoculars for the Moon tonight, as it is very thin (it’s only a day old!) Tomorrow (June 21) the Moon will be a good guide to help you find Mercury.

By next week, the Moon will be out of the area, but Mercury continues to get farther from the Sun. On June 23 & 24, it should be visible naked eye low in the WNW at an hour after sunset (or about 10 PM in SE Michigan.  Look for it in a straight line with Castor and Pollux. It doesn’t actually set until nearly 2 hours after sunset on those days!

Mercury doesn’t reach greatest eastward elongation (that’s the farthest distance east of the Sun) until June 30, but by that time it has moved far enough south that it actually sets earlier in the evening.  Also, it will be much dimmer by then, so although it’s farther from the Sun, it’s harder to spot.

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