For several nights we can enjoy watching Mercury – the first planet in the solar system. However, the real treat awaits lovers of observing the night sky. Soon it will reach its maximum elongation – the greatest angular distance of this celestial body in the sky from the sun. This will make observing Mercury easier. Moreover, we will be able to see four other planets at the same time.

The elongation is the angle between the sun and the body. Since Mercury lies within Earth’s orbit, its inclination is never more than 29 degrees. Mercury’s elongation can be admired before sunrise or just after sunset. In both cases we are talking about different types of phenomenon – after the west we can see the eastern elongation (then the eastern part of the planet is illuminated), and before the east we observe the western elongation (the light illuminates the western hemisphere of the planet).

We can observe the first planet in the solar system from Friday in the eastern sky. However, its greatest elongation will take place on Thursday, June 16, when it is 5 pm in Poland, and although this next night, in the morning, part of Mercury will be clearly visible. Later in the month, too, we’ll be able to observe the planet getting brighter and brighter.

Where are you looking?

To find Mercury, one must look at the sky rising before sunrise. In the case of Warsaw, we can expect sunrise on Friday from Mercury at 3.21 and sunset at 6.41. The sun will rise on that day at 4.14.

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MercuryNASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Four other planets

Interestingly, the next night we will also be able to see four other planets: Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Over the centuries, these have always been the brightest points in the night sky. The line they draw on the dome will mark the plane of our solar system.

At the time of elongation, the glow of Mercury will be 0.5 degrees. And its distance from the sun at the dome of the sky is 21 degrees. However, this is not the peak of the capabilities of the planet – the largest deviation can even reach 28 degrees.

Heaven in JuneZlata Baháchova / Bab,

Main image source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington