The Planet Hunter: Mercury and Mars!

The Planet Hunter: Mercury and Mars!

March 28th, 2017, 8:00 p.m. local time

The most extraordinary part of this Mercury hunt was appreciating how high above the horizon the planet can reach.  When I have searched for Mercury before, I always assumed that it had to be really, really close to the horizon, to the point I would be lucky in the best of circumstances to catch a fleeting glimpse through an opening between two nearby houses.  When I saw Mercury for the first time last week, it was indeed just that low, only reinforcing my suspicion.

But I have now learned how high Mercury can truly be.  In the photo above, taken with my Samsung Galaxy S7, you can see the little bright spec just over my neighbor’s rooftop across the street.  That’s pretty high off the horizon still, all things considered.  It made me realize that I have probably been looking in the wrong spots for Mercury since last summer!

Last night was a weird and unanticipated break in the Midwest’s perpetual rain.  But as you can see, the clouds rolled back in pretty fast, and about thirty minutes after this picture the sky was mostly filled with clouds again.

Using my binoculars, I also found Mars.  Though I look a lot of pictures, with the cloud cover it was difficult to get both Mercury and Mars at the same time.  The above picture did succeed.  In you cannot see Mars, here are both planets highlighted:

Perhaps because I knew this was a super brief moment to get Mars, I did not hold my phone steady enough, so the image is slightly blurred.  Here is another picture with Mercury only, proving how bright it was:

And so ends my observation log for at least the next several days – the clouds dominate right now.  But I do feel fortunate to have had this bonus look at a “high” Mercury.



I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have over 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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