Mercury Sightings - Details for 2022

Mercury has seven elongations in 2022. The initial sighting by Joe Stieber for each of these is tabulated below:

Sequence

Initial Sighting Date (2021/22)

Observing Location

Greatest Elongation (2022)

1

December 19, 5:13 pm EST, #70 Wharton State Forest (CzF), NJ

January 7, eastern (evening)

2

January 30, 6:43 am EST, #71 Swede Run, Moorestown, NJ

February 16, western (morning)

3

April 11, 7:48 pm EDT, #72 Swede Run, Moorestown, NJ

April 29, eastern (evening)

4

   

June 16, western (morning)

5

   

August 27, eastern (evening)

6

    October 8, western (morning)

7

   

December 21, eastern (evening)

 

Elongation #3

The first sighting of the third elongation for 2022 (the 72nd elongation in a row overall) was on April 11, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, under a somewhat cloudy sky, notably along the western horizon where there were streaky clouds and indifferent transparency. Mercury was spotted with 15x56 binoculars (on a monopod) at 7:48 pm EDT (sunset at 7:34 pm) after dropping down from a dark, horizontal cloud band while a distant aircraft was passing by it. It was only seen for a minute or so before disappearing into a murky gray patch of sky. At the time, Mercury was magnitude -1.5, 6.3 altitude, 5.4″ diameter and 92% illuminated. It was not seen with unaided eyes. This 72nd elongation numerically matches the observer's age (sort of like a golfer shooting his age).

The second sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 12, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, under a clear sky, even along the western horizon towards Mercury (no pesky clouds there for a change). It was initially spotted with 15x56 binoculars (on a monopod) at 7:38 pm EDT (sunset at 7:35 pm) as a distant aircraft passed by and it was picked up a few more times as a distant aircraft or bird passed by. It was not until 7:50 pm I could spot it without help from a plane or a bird. I suspect that in a brighter twilight sky where Mercury exhibits low contrast, a dark bird or plane provides then eyes a focusing target. I was able to glimpse Mercury with unaided eyes at 8:00 pm, then hold it in steady view at 8:03 pm. When first sighted, Mercury was magnitude -1.4, 8.8 altitude, 5.5″ diameter and 90% illuminated.

The third sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 15, 2022, from the parking lot of the Virtua Center in Moorestown, NJ (the West Jersey Astronomical Society meets there). The sky was generally clear, although there some streaky clouds along the horizon in the direction of Mercury. It was spotted with 10x42 binoculars at 7:49 pm EDT (sunset at 7:38 pm). It was not seen with unaided eyes on a quick glance, and I had to enter the building for a meeting. At the time of sighting, Mercury was magnitude -1.1, 10.7 altitude, 5.7″ diameter and 82% illuminated.

The fourth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 17, 2022, from my kitchen looking out (and through) the back window at 8:13 pm EDT using 10x42 binoculars (sunset at 7:41 pm). It was seen immediately afterwards with unaided eyes. At the time of sighting, Mercury was magnitude -1.0, 8.5 altitude, 6.0″ diameter and 75% illuminated. Uranus, magnitude 5.9, was about 2 southeast of Mercury (approximately at the 8:30 o'clock position). I looked for it between 8:30 and 8:35 pm with 16x70 binoculars without success, even with the window open to move the less-than-sparkling-clean glass out of the way. By then, Mercury was fairly easy to see in deepening twilight, but it wasn't dark enough for dimmer Uranus around 4.5 altitude.

The fifth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 19, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, at 8:01 pm EDT using 8x42 binoculars (sunset at 7:43 pm). It was seen with unaided eyes at 8:07 pm. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude -0.8, 12.5 altitude, 6.2″ diameter and 69% illuminated. It was easily seen afterwards from the "Vegetable Stand" on Church St in Moorestown where I stopped on the way home to take a snapshot of it at 8:25 pm. By then, Mercury as easy to see in deepening twilight (sunset was at 7:43 pm).


Mercury at 8:25 pm EDT on April 19, 2022.

The sixth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 22, 2022, from Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck, NJ, at 8:40 pm EDT using 8x42 binoculars through a gap in the clouds (sunset at 7:43 pm). It was not seen convincingly with unaided eyes. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude -0.5, 7.3 altitude, 6.7″ diameter and 58% illuminated.

The seventh sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 24, 2022, from the Steelmantown Observing Site in Belleplain State Forest, NJ, at 8:40 pm EDT using 15x56 binoculars through gaps in the trees (sunset at 7:46 pm). It was also seen with unaided eyes. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude -0.2, 8.6 altitude, 7.0″ diameter and 51% illuminated.

The eighth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 28, 2022, from the athletic field in Belleplain State Forest, NJ, at 8:24 pm EDT using 8x42 binoculars under a clear sky (sunset at 7:50 pm). It was seen with unaided eyes a few minutes later and became easily visible as twilight deepened (even through tree branches as it descended). Mercury was approaching the Pleiades star cluster and both fit easily in the same binocular field. A couple of the individual stars of the Pleiades became visible to unaided eyes as the sky darkened. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +0.3, 12.9 altitude, 7.8″ diameter and 39% illuminated.

The ninth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 29, 2022, from Collins Lane Park in Maple Shade, NJ, at 8:23 pm EDT using 8x42 binoculars (sunset at 7:53 pm). It was spotted with unaided eyes at 8:31 pm, and although the sky was clear, suburban light pollution prevented it from being easily seen. At 8:27 pm in my 88 mm apo spotting scope using 96x, Mercury varied between a wriggling banana shape and a thick crescent as the seeing fluctuated. At 25x (2.4FOV), both mercury and the Pleiades fit in the same field, a lovely sight (see a snapshot of the grouping below). In the 8x42s, the Pleiades were weak. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +0.4, 8.6 altitude, 8.0″ diameter and 36% illuminated.


Mercury, below-left of the Pleiades, at 8:52 pm EDT on April 29, 2022
.

The tenth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on April 30, 2022, from the Barnegat Rd Observing Site in Greenwood Forest, NJ, at 8:33 pm EDT through gaps in the clouds using 8x42 binoculars (sunset at 7:51 pm). It was seen with unaided eyes at 8:50 pm. Mercury was still relatively close to the Pleiades which were finally picked up with the binoculars not long before they descended behind the trees. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +0.6, 11.6 altitude, 8.2″ diameter and 33% illuminated.

The eleventh sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on May 2, 2022, from Collins Lane Park in Maple Shade, NJ, at 8:17 pm EDT in a cloud-free sky, but transparency wasn't good (sunset at 7:56 pm). Mercury was initially sighted with 15x56 binoculars at 8:17 pm EDT 4 below-right of the 2.2-day-old crescent moon, and with unaided eyes at 8:34 pm. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +0.9, 14.6 altitude, 8.7″ diameter and 27% illuminated. At 8:20 pm, using an 88 mm apo spotting scope at 60x, Mercury's thick crescent was visible, varying between that and a wiggling banana as the seeing fluctuated.

The twelfth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on May 4, 2022, from Collins Lane Park in Maple Shade, NJ, at 8:17 pm EDT in a generally cloud-free sky, but there was a cloud band low along the northwestern horizon (sunset was at 7:59 pm). However, Mercury was above the clouds and was spotted at 8:34 pm EDT with 10x42 binoculars (I then swung left to spot Aldebaran to be sure there was no confusion between them). Mercury was glimpsed with unaided eyes at 8:37 pm, then sank behind the cloud bad about 8:45 pm. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +1.2, 11.1 altitude, 9.2″ diameter and 22% illuminated.

The thirteenth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on May 5, 2022, from Historic Smithville Park in Easthampton, NJ, at 8:35 pm EDT through broken clouds with 10x42 binoculars, then subsequently with an 88 mm spotting scope. It was not seen with unaided eyes and no crescent was discerned with the scope. Sunset was at 7:58 pm. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +1.4, 10.4 altitude, 9.4″ diameter and 20% illuminated.

The fourteenth sighting of the third elongation for 2022 was on May 9, 2022, from Collins Lane Park in Maple Shade, NJ, at 8:31 pm EDT through breaking clouds with 15x56 binoculars.  Sunset was at 7:58 pm. With an 88 mm apo spotting scope at 96x, Mercury's crescent was observed at 8:38 pm, but seeing subsequently deteriorated as twilight darkened and Mercury dropped in altitude. It was not seen with unaided eyes. At the time of initial sighting, Mercury was magnitude +2.2, 8.9 altitude, 10.4″ diameter and 12% illuminated. Magnitude +0.9 Aldebaran was spotted with the 15x56s at 8:39 pm, 9 to the left of Mercury, then seen with unaided eyes at 8:49 pm.

Without making a deetailed check of history, I am fairly certain that this third elongation of 2022 includes the greatest number of dates on which Mercury was sighted, fourteen (14), and the greatest number of different locations from which it was sighted, nine (9), during a single elongation.

 

Elongation #2

The first sighting of the second elongation for 2022 (the 71st elongation in a row overall) was on January 30, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, under a clear sky in cold conditions (10F) following a nor'easter that left 4 to 6 inches of snow the day before. Brilliant Venus and the 4.3% crescent Moon were seen from the car while heading down Westfield Rd, and Mars was sighted at 6:45 am with 15x56 binoculars. Mercury was initially sighted at 6:43 am EST in bright twilight (sunrise would be at 7:10 am) with 15x56 binoculars. At the time, Mercury was at 6.0 altitude and magnitude +1.6, 9.6″ diameter, 15% illuminated. It was not seen with unaided eyes.

The second sighting of the second elongation for 2022 was on February 6, 2022, from East Point, NJ, under a very clear sky in cold conditions (18F). Brilliant Venus and less bright Mars were also seen. Mercury was initially sighted with unaided eyes at 5:51 am EST, almost accidentally while estimating the azimuth at which it would appear along the horizon, ahead of sunrise at 7:02 am. When initially sighted, Mercury was at 1.7 altitude, magnitude +0.4, 8.4″ diameter and 37% illuminated. It was followed with unaided eyes until 6:20 am, and in between, it was observed with 15x56 binoculars and a 115 mm apo spotting scope at 30 to 70x. Poor seeing at the low altitude precluded seeing the crescent shape in the scope.

The third sighting of the second elongation for 2022 was on February 20, 2022, from Lenola (the old A&P lot) in Moorestown, NJ, under a very clear sky. Venus (magnitude -4.6) blazed in the southeast but magnitude +1.3 Mars required binoculars to pick up in brightening twilight around 6:10 am EST (sunrise would be at 6:46 am). Magnitude 0.0 Mercury was initially sighted with 8x42 binoculars at 6:10 am, then unaided eyes (with difficulty) a minute later. At the time, Mercury was at 6.1 altitude, 6.6″ diameter and 64% illuminated.

The fourth sighting of the second elongation for 2022 was on March 2, 2022, from Swede Run in Moorestown, NJ, under a very clear sky. Venus (magnitude -4.5) blazed in the southeast but magnitude +1.2 Mars required binoculars to pick up in brightening twilight at 5:55 am EST (sunrise would be at 6:31 am). Magnitude -0.1 Mercury was initially sighted with 15x56 binoculars at 6:00 am, but was not seen with unaided eyes. Magnitude +0.8 Saturn was simultaneously visible in the binoculars, 43 arc minutes from Mercury at the 10 o'clock position (they would be in conjunction at 8 am). When first sighted, Mercury was at 3.2 altitude, 5.8″ diameter and 77% illuminated. This was the first sighting of Saturn since its solar conjunction on February 4, 2022.

 

Elongation #1

The first sighting of the first elongation for 2022 (the 70th elongation in a row overall) was on December 19, 2021, from Wharton State Forest (CzF), NJ, under a clear sky as a secondary object while sighting comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard). Brilliant Venus was used as the primary guide, while Saturn and bright Jupiter were in a row not far east of Venus. These four objects were observed on all the succeeding December sessions. Mercury was initially sighted at 4:51 pm EST in moderately bright twilight with 15x56 binoculars (sunset was at 4:36 pm). At the time, Mercury was at 3.9 altitude and magnitude -0.7, 5.0″ diameter, 94% illuminated. It was not seen with unaided eyes.

The second sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on December 20, 2021, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, under a clear sky. It was spotted at 5:01 pm EST with 15x56 binoculars. At the time, it was barely above the tree tops at 3.0 altitude, magnitude -0.7, 5.1″ diameter 94% illuminated. It was not seen with unaided eyes.

The third sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on December  23, 2021, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, through thin clouds. It was spotted at 5:08 pm EST with 15x56 binoculars. At the time, it was just above the tree tops at 3.7 altitude, magnitude -0.7, 5.2″ diameter 91% illuminated. It was not seen with unaided eyes.

The fourth sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on December 26, 2021, from the lighthouse parking area at East Point, NJ, under a mostly clear sky. There were some passing thin clouds and thicker clouds along the sea horizon (which turned a fiery orange color after sunset at 4:44 pm EST). Mercury was initially spotted at 5:00 pm, 7.0 altitude, 6 below Venus. At the time it was magnitude -0.7, 5.4″ diameter and 87% illuminated. It was glimpsed with unaided eyes at 5:24 pm at 3.4 altitude.

The fifth sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on January 4, 2022, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, under a mostly clear sky with some scattered clouds along the horizon; sunset at 4:48 pm EST. The exquisitely thin crescent Venus, 0.8% illuminated four days before inferior conjunction, was spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 5:05 pm (4.3 altitude) then seen with unaided eyes. Mercury was spotted at 5:06 pm with 15x56 binoculars, 10.9 altitude. At the time it was magnitude -0.7, 6.4″ diameter and 68% illuminated. It was glimpsed with unaided eyes at 5:10 pm, unambiguously visible with unaided eyes at 5:17 pm and by 5:30 pm, was obvious with unaided eyes.

The sixth sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on January 7, 2022, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, under a mostly clear sky; sunset was at 4:51 pm EST. Mercury was spotted with the 15x56 binoculars through the car's windshield at 5:18 pm (I was taking refuge from a strong wind) the subsequently seen with unaided eyes.

The seventh sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on January 11, 2022, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, under a clear sky; sunset was at 4:55 pm EST.  Mercury was spotted with 15x56 binoculars at 5:31 pm then immediately afterwards with unaided eyes. At the time, Mercury was 8.7 altitude, magnitude -0.1, 7.8″ diameter and 39% illuminated. By 5:40 pm, it was easily visible with unaided eyes.

The eighth sighting of the first elongation for 2022 was on January 14, 2022, from the baseball field complex in Maple Shade, NJ, under a clear sky; sunset was at 4:58 pm EST.  Mercury was spotted with 8x42 binoculars at 5:31 pm. At the time, Mercury was magnitude +0.6, 7.4 altitude, 15.6 solar elongation, 8.5″ apparent diameter and 24% illuminated. Then at 5:32 pm, it was located with an 88 mm apo spotting scope at 25x, increased to 60x in an attempt to see the crescent. However, the low altitude, poor seeing, significant atmospheric chromatic dispersion and jiggling from a strong buffeting wind allowed only a somewhat horizontal elongation to be seen. Mercury was first seen with unaided eyes at 5:38 pm.

 

________________

 

The current streak is now 72 elongations in a row during my twelfth calendar year of Mercury elongation sightings (beginning in January 2011). There are six or seven elongations per year. The years 2011, 2015 and 2018 each had seven (7) elongations, while 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 each had six (6). That's 69 elongations in 11 years, or an average of 6.3 elongations per year. 2022 will have seven (7) elongations. Click here for sightings in 2021. 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 a little planning and effort, although circumstances make some elongations easy and some difficult.

 

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Last Update: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at 05:47 PM Eastern Time