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A Visit from Mercury

Towards the end of December and into the beginning of January we will have an ideal opportunity to tick off Mercury in our planet list. In fact, during this period 6 planets are observable in the evening sky with only Mars being a predawn observation.


Venus will be the brightest planet showing in the West after the sun has set at a stunning magnitude -4.3. Mercury will start to move away from the sun closer to Venus so by 29th they will pass, Mercury will be shinning at magnitude -0.7 which it will remain at for the rest of the month.

Image: https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/advice/skills/observing-guide-best-planets-december-night-sky/


Because of their brightness the planets will probably be the first objects you will see in the night sky, with only the bright star Altair mag. 0.75, slightly to the North to possibly confuse the issue. The rest of the stars in that area are a lot dimmer. By 7th January Mercury will be at its greatest elongation giving you the best view, although by then slightly dimmer.

Heading west along the ecliptic you will find Saturn dimming at mag 0.7 then Jupiter still very bright at magnitude -2.1. Further West, although you will need a telescope you will come across Neptune and then Uranus. Whilst all except Neptune and Uranus will be visible with the naked eye you will get better views, certainly of Mercury with the use of a standard pair of binoculars.


Assuming the weather is kind to us the Solent Amateur Astronomers are planning to arrange an early evening at the New Forest Stony Cross site to view the planets though one of their telescopes. This information will be emailed to members and available on our Facebook site.


Roger Nelson

Solent Amateur Astronomers

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