Each eager stargazer feels a quickening of the heart beat at seeing a transparent sky at nightfall. This sense intensifies when one is in with an opportunity of getting a naked-eye glimpse of Mercury, the photo voltaic system’s innermost planet. It’s rightly considered considerably elusive, however Mercury’s not notably troublesome to trace down if you happen to’re ready to do some homework to search out out when and the place to search for it. The innermost planet attains an elongation of 18.1 levels east of the Solar at 1:25am GMT on 27 February.
This yr’s best night apparition of Mercury for observers within the British Isles lasts a couple of fortnight beginning 20 February. First, it is advisable to discover a location that gives you an unobstructed view of the horizon from west-southwest by means of west on the finish of civil twilight, which is about 40 minutes after sundown for the guts of the British Isles. For any given day yow will discover out the time when civil twilight ends for the place you reside from our interactive on-line Almanac.
Mercury is brightest (magnitude -1.0) in the beginning of this two-week-long observing window round 20 February, and greatest positioned from 25 February by means of 2 March when it’s 10° excessive on the finish of civil twilight as seen from the guts of the British Isles. And I make no apologies for repeating the same old warning to guard your eyesight: by no means search for Mercury with binoculars or telescopes till after sundown.
Why it is a good time to search for Mercury
As winter segues into spring, many informal skywatchers at temperate latitudes such because the UK specific shock at how quickly the waxing younger crescent Moon quickly ascends within the western sky on successive nights, in stark distinction to nightfall in autumn when the Moon seems to hug the southwestern horizon. The illustration under explains why that is so.