July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Discovery

Encounter with Mercury at dusk in July

Mercury makes one of its best appearances for 2024 this month.

Where have all the planets gone? The early July dusk also leaves a sky seemingly empty of planets that are familiar to the naked eye. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are now dawn dwellers and will remain that way for most of the year. rest of 2024.

But now, as night falls, two challenging planets appear: Mercury and Venus. The two inner worlds are slowly returning, as the search now focuses on retrieving them after sunset.

Mercury's July appearance in particular is interesting and one of the best of six for observers around the world. This is mainly because the planet heads into aphelion at 0.4667 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun on July 27.Heonly five days after maximum elongation. At maximum elongation on July 22North Dakota Mercury will display a 45% illuminated disk 8” in diameter, shining at a respectable magnitude of +0.3.

It's true that Mercury doesn't look like much more than a dot in a telescope, even at high magnification… but part of the thrill of discovering this illusory world is knowing what we're actually seeing.

July 8th
Mercury, Venus and the Moon on July 8. Credit: Stellarium.

Exploring Mercury

It is true that Mercury has been known since ancient times and is not at all… that It's difficult to see if you know exactly where and when to look for it. A low, flat horizon facing west at dusk certainly helps.

The often-told story that Nicolaus Copernicus never saw Mercury is probably apocryphal. Looking at the tiny world through a telescope reveals a cycle of phases similar to the Moon's… and not much else. Mercury's distinction as the innermost world in the solar system always ensures that it remains low in the darkness of the atmosphere at dusk or dawn. This makes it too blurry to glimpse much in terms of surface detail. It wasn't until the advent of space exploration that we learned much more about Mercury. NASA Mariner 10 In 1974 and 1975, it made two brief flybys of the planet, revealing an airless, cratered world 1.4 times the size of our Moon. Since then, NASA's Mercury probe has DELIVERY COURIER revealed the planet in greater detail, becoming the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the world in 2011. Meanwhile, the joint ESA/JAXA mission BepiColombo Mission It has made three flybys of Mercury so far and will enter orbit in late 2025.

One of the most amazing views of Mercury that I can recall in recent times was from the Big Bear Solar Observatory During May 9th, Mercury Transit 2016:

…And Venus makes two

Meanwhile, Venus also joins the evening scene. Although it is brighter, at magnitude -3.9 (nearly 100 times brighter than Mercury), Venus is also lower on the horizon in July. Venus typically makes a slower return toward the evening. That's because it approaches us from the far side of the Sun. Think of Venus as a runner trying to catch up with Earth on the inner path of the solar system. Venus spends the rest of 2024 in the evening sky. The planet reaches its greatest eastern elongation of 47 degrees from the Sun on January 10.He2025.

The sky panorama becomes more and more dynamic as the month progresses. On July 6thHeMercury actually transits (passes in front of) the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44). Use binoculars to capture +4He The 4th magnitude dwarf planet Vesta is nearby. Venus also meets Messier 44 on July 18.Healthough the event is much further down the horizon.

Mercury vs M44
Mercury crosses M44 on July 6. Credit: Stellarium.

Mercury reaches its greatest elongation at 27 degrees east of the Sun at dusk on July 22.North Dakota.

The Moon joins the scene on the evenings of July 7.He and on July 8thHe like a crescent moon. The crescent moon always adds a three-dimensional aspect to the scene. This is because the night side is dimly illuminated by the Earth in what is called Light of the earth.

Mercury
Mercury, Venus and the Moon on July 7.

If you've never seen Mercury with your own eyes, this month is a good time to try to check off the inner world from your life list.

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