Mercury Sightings - Details for 2020

Mercury has six elongations in 2020. The initial sighting by Joe Stieber for each of these is tabulated below:

Sequence

Initial Sighting Date (2020)

Observing Location

Greatest Elongation (2020)

#1

January 29, 5:40 pm EST Baseball Fields, Maple Shade, NJ

February 10, eastern (evening)

#2

   

March 23, western (morning)

#3

   

June 4, eastern (evening)

#4

   

July 22, western (morning)

#5

   

October 1, eastern (evening)

#6

    November 10, western (morning)

  

 

Elongation #1

The first sighting of the first elongation for 2020 (the 58th elongation in a row overall) was on January 29, 2020 from the Maple Shade, NJ, baseball field complex. It was initially sighted in moderately bright twilight at 5:40 pm EST (sunset was at 5:15 pm) using 15x56 binoculars, then seen a minute later with unaided eyes since it was fairly bright at magnitude -1.03. At the time, Mercury's altitude was 6.2 in western Capricornus (near Deneb Algedi, which was not visible in the twilight glow).

The second sighting of the first elongation for 2020 was on February 17, 2020 from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ. The sky was surprisingly clear and magnitude +1.2 Mercury was initially spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 6:00 pm EST, 22 minutes after sunset, when it was at 8 altitude in Aquarius. Starting at 6:05 pm, I observed it with my 88 mm apo spotting scope at 96x (zoom eyepiece at 60x plus a 1.6x extender). The seeing was not good at the low altitude, so Mercury was woozy with much atmospheric chromatic abberation). It took some patience to resolve the crescent shape (18% illuminated at the time). The horns, or cusps, were pointed nearly straight up, so it looked like a smile. By 6:20 pm, at 5 altitude, the seeing had degraded to the point where I could no longer resolve the crescent. My last view was at 6:35 pm with the 15x56s as Mercury approached the tree tops.

 

 

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The current sighting streak is now 58 elongations in a row, starting in January 2011, which includes nine 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, 2017 and 2019 each had six (6). 2020 will have six (6). Click here for sightings in 2019. 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: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 04:31 PM Eastern Time