Mercury Sightings - Details for 2019

Mercury has six elongations in 2019. The initial sighting by Joe Stieber for each of these is tabulated below:

Sequence

Initial Sighting Date (2019)

Observing Location

Greatest Elongation (2019)

#1

February 16, 6:15 pm EST Baseball Fields, Maple Shade, NJ

February 26, eastern (evening)

#2

March 27, 6:19 am EDT Swede Run, Moorestown, NJ

April 11, western (morning)

#3

June 3, 8:50 pm EDT Swede Run, Moorestown, NJ

June 23, eastern (evening)

#4

August 9, 5:05 am EDT Swede Run, Moorestown, NJ

August 9, western (morning)

#5

   

October 20, eastern (evening)

#6

    November 28, western (morning)

The inferior conjunction of November 11, 2019, will produce a Transit of Mercury across the Sun, starting at 7:36 am and ending at 1:04 pm EST for a location of 40N-75W (nominally Philadelphia, PA). Here's Fred Espenak's transit page with a nice diagram of Mercury's path across the Sun, but note that Espenak's times compared to the Philadelphia times are about 35 seconds sooner at first contact and about 5 seconds sooner at last contact since his are geocentric. Also notice that because Mercury's path is tilted slightly compared to the ecliptic and does not cross the exact center of the solar disc, inferior conjunction (in right ascension) at 15:22 UT is a couple of minutes later than greatest transit. Inferior conjunction occurs at the point where where a north-pointing line from the sun's center crosses Mercury's path.

 

Elongation #4

The first sighting of the fourth elongation for 2019 (the 55th elongation in a row overall) was on August 9, 2019, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 5:05 am EDT with unaided eyes, following a slightly bent line about 10 down from Castor and Pollux. Mercury was magnitude +0.20, 7.7" diameter, 38% illuminated, 4.5 altitude and 69 azimuth. I then observed it with my 88 mm spotting scope at 60x. I was able to see that it was a thick crescent, since in moments of better (but not good) seeing, the terminator looked concave. Mercury was 19 from the sun, its greatest elongation for this apparition.

The second sighting of the fourth elongation for 2019 was on August 10, 2019, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 4:55 am EDT with 10x50 binoculars and then immediately with unaided eyes. Mercury was magnitude +0.04, 7.4" diameter, 42% illuminated, 3.1 altitude and 67 azimuth. I was able to see it with unaided eyes until 5:40 am when I left Swede Run (sunrise would be at 6:07 am). In the meantime, I took some snapshots, here's one taken at 5:12 am...

Mercury at 5:12 am EDT on August 10, 2019. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera + Canon 200 mm f/2.8L lens (on a fixed tripod) for a field 10.3 wide x 6.9 high (not cropped). Exposed 1/8 second at f/8, ISO 12,800 (not processed).

The third sighting of the fourth elongation for 2019 was on August 11, 2019, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. Mercury was initially spotted at 4:55 am EDT with unaided eyes as soon as I stepped out of the car. It was magnitude -0.11, 7.2" diameter, 45% illuminated, 3.0 altitude and 67 azimuth. After spotting it, I did not dwell at Swede Run as I was on the way home from observing Perseid meteors at Atsion in the Pines.

 

Elongation #3

The first sighting of the third elongation for 2019 (the 54th elongation in a row overall) was on June 3, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 8:50 pm EDT with 15x56 binoculars, but it wasn't confirmed until 9:10 pm because of initial confusion with Alnath (Beta Tauri), 6.6 from Mercury. Alnath was first spotted at the nominal azimuth for Mercury as indicated by my handheld compass. I continued to watch it drop on a diagonal path, never very bright through murky clouds above the western horizon. However, there was a pesky bright object just over a binocular field above-left of the presumed Mercury that I couldn't seem to identify. Finally, at 9:10 pm, when other objects were located in the darkening sky (Procyon, Mars, Castor & Pollux, Capella and the Kids), it suddenly became self-evident that the bright pesky object was actually Mercury (I should have realized this sooner!). I was then able to see Mercury with unaided eyes above the tree tops. At 8:50 pm, Mercury was magnitude -0.9 (80% illuminated), 8.3 altitude at 297 azimuth and 15 from the sun. By 9:10 pm, it was 5 altitude at 300 azimuth.

The second sighting of the third elongation for 2019 was on June 11, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 9:17 pm EDT with 15x56 binoculars (magnitude -0.2, 62% illuminated, 8.3 altitude, 296 azimuth, 21.6 from the sun), then with unaided eyes at 9:20 pm. I then set up the camera for the snapshot below.

Mercury at 9:41 pm EDT on June 11, 2019. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera + Canon 70 to 200 mm f/2.8L zoom lens (on a fixed tripod) set to 200 mm focal length for a field 8.1 wide x 6.6 high. Exposed 1/2 second at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

The third sighting of the third elongation for 2019 was on June 14, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 9:17 pm EDT with 10x50 binoculars (magnitude 0.0, 52% illuminated, 9.1 altitude, 294 azimuth, 23.1 from the sun), then immediately with unaided eyes in a clear sky.

The fourth sighting of the third elongation for 2019 was on June 21, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 9:15 pm EDT with 15x56 binoculars through a gap in the clouds along the western horizon. Mars was 1.8 from Mercury, so they easily fit in the same binocular field and they were intermittently visible for a couple of minutes as the cloud gap moved. At 9:15 pm, Mercury was at magnitude +0.44, 43% illuminated, 9.7 altitude, 291 azimuth and 25.0 from the sun. Increasing clouds continued to cover the entire sky by time I left at 9:50 pm, but in another cloud gap, I spotted nearby Castor and Pollux at 9:30 pm with the 15x56s.

The fifth sighting of the third elongation for 2019 was on June 22, 2019 from Atsion in Wharton State Forest, NJ. It was initially sighted in a clear sky at 9:30 pm EDT with 15x56 binoculars then immediately seen with unaided eyes. Mars was also in the same binocular field, 2.2 from Mercury, and was ultimately glimpsed with unaided eyes before it sank behind the tree tops. Nearby Castor and Pollux were also seen in the 15x56s, then glimpsed with unaided eyes. At 9:30 pm, Mercury was at magnitude +0.51, 41% illuminated, 6.6 altitude, 293 azimuth and 25.1 from the sun.

 

Elongation #2

The first sighting of the second elongation for 2019 (the 53rd elongation in a row overall) was on March 27, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 6:19 am EDT with 15x56 binoculars, but not with unaided eyes since the relatively dim planet (magnitude +1.5, just 19% illuminated) was in relatively bright twilight (sunrise at 6:52 am). Although Mercury was more than 20 from the sun, the ecliptic was at a shallow 28 angle to the horizon at the time, so it was only at 3.0 altitude (98 azimuth).

The second sighting of the second elongation for 2019 was on April 3, 2019 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. It was initially sighted at 6:08 am EDT with 15x56 binoculars, but not easily seen and not a hint with unaided eyes since the not-bright planet (magnitude +0.76, 34% illuminated) was in fairly bright twilight (sunrise at 6:41 am). Although Mercury was almost 26 from the sun, the ecliptic was at a shallow 27 angle to the horizon at the time, so it was only at 4.0 altitude (100 azimuth).

Mercury at 6:16 am EDT on April 3, 2019. Taken with a Canon EOS RP mirrorless digital camera + Canon 100 f/2.8L macro lens, then cropped to 25% of the original size for a field 5.2 wide x 3.5 high. Exposed 1/80 second at f/2.8, ISO 400, daylight white balance.

 

 

Elongation #1

The first sighting of the first elongation for 2019 (the 52nd elongation in a row overall) was on February 16, 2019 from the Maple Shade, NJ, baseball field complex. It was initially sighted at 6:15 pm EST with 15x56 binoculars, and then immediately seen with unaided eyes since it was fairly bright at magnitude -1.1 in the middle-twilight sky (sunset was at 5:37 pm). At the time, Mercury was at 5.0 altitude and 0.4 from Lambda Aquarii (Hydor).

Mercury and Lambda Aquarii (above-right of Mercury) at 6:24 pm EST on February 16, 2019. Taken with a Canon 7D Mk II + Tamron 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 zoom at 400 mm (3.1 x 2.1 field). Exposed 1/3 second at f/5.6, ISO 800, daylight white balance.

 

The second sighting of the first elongation for 2019 was on February 25, 2019 from the Maple Shade, NJ, baseball field complex. Mercury was initially sighted at 6:22 pm EST with with unaided eyes through the car window. It was still fairly bright at magnitude -0.5 in the middle-twilight sky (sunset was at 5:47 pm). At the time, Mercury was at 10.3 altitude. Subsequently, Mars was sighted with unaided eyes about 6:30 pm at 48 altitude, then dropping down 8 from there, Uranus was seen with 15x56 binoculars. Here's an observing report, which includes the baseball field session as well a session at Carranza Field later that night.

The third sighting of the first elongation for 2019 was on March 4, 2019 from the Maple Shade, NJ, baseball field complex. Mercury was initially sighted at 6:22 pm EST with with 15x56 binoculars. It was at 9.9 altitude and had dimmed to magnitude +0.9. It was not evident with unaided eyes at the time in twilight (astronomical twilight would end at 7:25 pm). I then set up my 80 mm, f/6 apo refractor and at 6:30 pm, was able to discern Mercury's 22% illuminated crescent with a 4.7 mm eyepiece (102x), 8.4 altitude. Seeing was poor, and there was significant atmospheric chromatic aberration, so it was more like a colorful, woozy horizontal banana rather than a crisp crescent. By 6:35 pm, 7.4 altitude, I was able to see Mercury with unaided eyes, although it was much dimmer than the previous two sightings. I last saw it at 6:50 pm, 4.6 altitude, after I packed up the scope. Also about 6:50 pm, I was also able to see Mars with unaided eyes, and with 15x56 binoculars, Uranus about 12.6 below Mars. However, I didn't use Mars to find Uranus. Instead, I followed Hamal and Sheratan in Aries down to Eta Psc, then over to Omicron Psc, then up to Uranus. I was also able to spot M31 by swinging right from Aries to Mirach (Beta And) then on to M31.

 

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The current sighting streak is now 54 elongations in a row, starting in January 2011, which includes eight complete calendar years of six or seven elongations each. The years 2011, 2015 and 2018 each had seven (7) elongations, while 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 each had six (6). 2019 will have six (6). Click here for previous sightings. The purpose of this ongoing effort is not to set some sort of record, especially since I have no idea what sort of record might exist, but to demonstrate that locating and seeing Mercury is not nearly as difficult as many suppose. It just takes some planning and a little effort, although circumstances make some elongations easy and some difficult.

 

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Last Update: Monday, August 12, 2019 at 03:08 AM Eastern Time