Society for Popular Astronomy

Mercury Observation tonight
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Author:  JohnM [ Sun Feb 24, 2019 10:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Mercury Observation tonight

Managed to get the image below of Mercury before it set. Handheld from my upstairs window Canon 70D 1/90th Second f5.6 ISO6400 cropped from a larger image.

Mercury was clearly visible when I found it but was lower than I expected.

As you can see my Western Horizon is not very good ! The black object is the out of focus chimney of the house on the other side of the road.

I have added a poll to see how many people have seen or imaged Mercury. If you have seen or imaged it from both the Uk & elsewhere please select the Uk option on the basis it is easier to see Mercury the nearer the equator you are due to the angle of the ecliptic.

File comment: Mercury
Canon 70D 1/90th Second f5.6 ISO6400 cropped from a larger image

20190224-180442-crop-3.jpg [ 237.16 KiB | Viewed 1904 times ]

Author:  mike a feist [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Mercury: 24/2/19, 1804-1848 UT: in 15x65 Acuter spotter , handheld 8x36 binocular and unaided eye. Viewed from upper West facing window. As higher up, this time avoided most of the twiggy tree nearby and was able to see the planet set behind the bushes on Southwick Hill.
NB. John, I filled in your questionnaire although the answer "yes" only tells a part of the story. The sighting above is my 518th observation of Mercury. All were from Portslade and either from the window of my home in Mike Oak or the local park in Chalky Road, or from the Foredown, and few from Emmaus. A good proportion of them were morning elongations. Two were in transit across the Sun. Hope to add another Transit of Mercury to the list this year! Regards maf

Author:  JohnM [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight


I can't compete with that number - I think I may be on about 40-50 observations. Houses in the evening and a tree in the morning make things difficult.

I have also seen two transits of Venus and two of Mercury.

The November 2019 Mercury transit will be difficult from the UK due to the low altitude at entry and exit will be after Sunset. Best to head for the Canary Isles or the South East coast of the USA for that one.

It will be interesting to see how the votes go - I suspect those who have not seen Mercury will not vote - Do I take the number of views minus those who vote as having seen it as the number of 'No' votes ?


Author:  mike a feist [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Those 500+ Mercury observations of mine go back to 1988, when I observed it 4 times in May in the evening and once in the morning in October. I have observed it every year since then. My western view is not a true horizon but the nearby Southwick Hill and there sre some nearby trees and houses in the way in the north westerly direction which means a short walk to the adjacent park which gives a good View as far as Southwick Hill around to Truleigh Hill in the north. The eastern horizon often requires the that I take a longer walk up to Foredown and from there can get a good, sunrise horizon, therefore requiring an early, pre sunrise walk! I imagine that generally observers see the evening elongations far more often that the early morning one!
As for the transits: those of Venus, saw only the first which was marvelous. The second was clouded out. Those of Mercury, were both seen but only the first well ,the second being glimpsed for a few seconds at the start, then clouded out. As for this November Mercury transit, given a clear sky, will try and view it from the Foredown Tower. This has a good westerly view, revealing Worthing Pier and often the I O W. It should be possible to use the Camera Obscura to project a view of the Sun + Mercury. There is a photograph in one of the older books showing a photograph of a Mercury transit using a projected image of Horace Dall's Luton camera obscura. In fact we did the same on the 7th May 2003. To quote from my diary "I set up the 12" Foredown Tower Camera Obscura and as soon as I projected a huge,vertical image, we noticed the small image of Mercury just inside the limb, it was 0617hrs BST." Maybe we will succeed again. The Sun needs to be quite low down to access it with the device. Regards maf.

Author:  David Frydman [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Hi John and Mike.
I have seen Mercury numerous times with and without optical aid.
It is a lot better from Finland at latitude 60.5 degrees north because it is white from there.
From the U.K. it looks pink.
The air is clean in Finland and not in the U.K.

I saw one of the Mercury transits with an exact 3x opera glass and optimum safe filtration.
Mercury diameter 12 arcseconds.
I could see penumbral sunspots with a tilted large welders glass 13 filter to optimum density that are 38 arcseconds across or 34 arcseconds with my head braced against a lamp post.

People with really good sight can see 20 arcsecond penumbral spots with unaided eyes and safe filters.

Mercury is easier than sunspots as it has black edges.

I have always wondered if a Mercury transit can possibly be seen by human vision with an optimal safe filter.
I thought not.

But a young aboriginal Australian has been measured as having 6/1.4 vision in metres, i/e. 20/4.7 in feet.
6/3 and 6/2 is common in young aboriginal Australians.
However, they have terrible problems with eye health now, brought about by current diet and possibly alcohol etc.
So the answer must be yes. At least in the past young aboriginal Australians could see a Mercury transit with an optimal safe filter.
They also could see much fainter stars than we can. and their constellations didn't make sense, until the professor involved used a binocular to look at the stars. He then could make out their constellations.
(Professor Taylor, Australia).

South American sailors in the past and some African hunter gatherers were probably close to aboriginal Australians in vision capabilities.

An examination of about 160 U.S. Navy pilots mainly F14 Tomcat pilots showed an average Snellen high contrast measure of 20/8. The best maybe around 20/6.5.

There was a 21 year old German student optician who had fantastic eyesight, but I cannot get hold of the actual measures because of patient confidentiality.
She was also able to detect 10th magnitude stars in a controlled laboratory indoors.
Veronica Seider. Stuttgart University, October 1972.

I cannot see Mercury nowadays because of buildings and trees.


Author:  Brian [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

I found Mercury to be a straightforward n/eye object again today (25Feb2019), around 18.05UT. I "cheated " a little, having established that the planet will be close to a neighbours aerial at that time :wink: . Mercury (-0.6m) jumped out of the bright sunset at the first look. Using the aerial as a reference point I can see that Mercury is moving more to the west at each sunset, although it's altitude at that time remains about 10degrees.

I've got a few snapshots of Mercury, and images from both the 2003 and 2016 (May) transits,

Author:  jeff.stevens [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Nice image, John.

Mike, that is an incredible set of Mercury observations. What great dedication.

I managed my first glimpse of Mercury, for this apparition, tonight. What a beautiful evening for viewing it. I started at 5:50pm, using an 8x56 binocular, but I couldn't detect the planet at that point in time. It was 6:03pm when I finally spotted it in my binocular view. I couldn't be sure I could make it out with the unaided eye until about 6:13pm.

From then onwards it became increasingly more obvious. I suspect there was some interference from very fine cloud/haze strands, as I could see it dipping and rising in brightness at times. My last observation was at 6:45pm, as it drifted into some distant tree branches on my horizon line.

I am always delighted to spot Mercury - and another opportunity to sit and watch twilight deepen for a while. A great way to start or end a day. I like to sit and think about what I am looking at; gazing into the solar system at another planet.

Aren't we due a transit of Mercury this November?

Best wishes,


Author:  David Frydman [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

My post got bounced.

In short, saw Mercury easily at 18.24 UT with distance glasses from side window.
Mercury was bright to unaided eyes and glasses, but very difficult without glasses as not in focus.
8 degree elevation, about due west.
2 degree above building clear cloudless sky.
Between mag -1.0 and 0.0.

White tonight to unaided eyes and glasses and in Swift 8.5x44 8.26 degree field.

19C today. 9.50 UT 10C 1037 hPa few cloud base 25,000ft light easterly approx.


Author:  Brian [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

jeff.stevens wrote:
Aren't we due a transit of Mercury this November?

Rough figures from SkyMapPro:

11November 2019
First contact 12.33UT. (Mercury crosses Sun approx. mid-disk)
Sun sets 16.13UT , transit about 3/4 complete.


Author:  JohnM [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

I found it quite difficult to see visually tonight - it was very close to the chimney of the house opposite and my eyes seemed to want to focus on that rather than Mercury. I had to 'force' them to focus on infinity and then Mercury popped into view. It might have been due to the clear sky with no clouds allowing my vision to focus on infinity.

I think I read somewhere that WW2 (and presumably later) fighter pilots had to be trained to focus on infinity when there was a clear blue sky as the natural focal distance is under 100m and they were not able to spot distant aircraft unless they deliberatly focused on infinity. Can anyone confirm / provide a reference for this ?

I (well Google) found a reference at it looks as though the human eye focuses at a few meters until you see something in the distance. It is apparently a serious problem in flying aircraft since you can't see another aircraft until you see another aircraft ! It does make you wonder how they see the drones they keep spotting ?

My Sister saw Mercury tonight for the first time from near where Mike lives so you don't need to be an astronomer to see it.

Author:  jeff.stevens [ Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Cheers Brian. Fingers crossed for clear skies that day.

Best wishes,


Author:  mike a feist [ Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

25/2/19, 1802-1855 UT: From upper westfacing window. Very clear sky. Used Acuter 15x65 spotting scope, 8x40 Aspheric binoculars and unaided eye. Initially well above the twiggy bush but dipped into it later. Finally escaped the bush and seen to disappear behind a bush on Southwick Hill at 1855 UT.

Once one has seen it during an elongation, given a series of clear evenings one knows exactly where to look each time. Here the pylons on Southwick Hill act as excellent markers. Being pretty near the horizon does help of course and scanning with scope or binocular in horizontal strips one is likely is to run into it. Picking it out with the unaided eye when the sky was quite bright at the start, was difficult but later on it was quite obvious, even as it set yesterday. (Observation.#519). Regards maf.

Author:  jeff.stevens [ Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

Another opportunity to observe Mercury this evening. We went for a walk along the local canalside, to a point overlooking an area of marshland with a good view of the west. We were a little later arriving than planned, but still managed to observe Mercury easily with the unaided eye for 30 minutes from 6:25pm onwards.

I tried to capture a picture, but my camera isn’t really up to the job. You can just about detect it in this image. It’s been fantastic having clear skies two nights in succession. I haven’t seen the forecast for tomorrow, so I’m not sure if I will make it three on the trot. However, I am just happy to have seen the elusive planet once more. One for the diary.

We did a spot of stargazing on our way back. Sirius looked super bright even in the reflection of the canal water.

Best wishes, Jeff.

E486875E-F990-4FC6-87BF-E70241AFD68F.jpeg [ 86.51 KiB | Viewed 1841 times ]

Author:  JohnM [ Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

I looked out of my window tonight at the place I though Mercury should be - just above the chimney and thought Mercury is bright tonight - it looks as bright as Venus.

I picked my binoculars up for a better look and discovered that what I could see was the landing light on an aircraft !! Mercury was in the same field but smaller and dimmer.


Author:  mike a feist [ Wed Feb 27, 2019 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Mercury Observation tonight

This good spell of weather especially at sunset, has permitted a nice series of observations of Mercury, with just one evening missed on the 21st Feb, following my first success on the 20th Feb. Last evening, Tuesday
26th, used 8x40 Aspheric binocular (and a bit later unaided eye) from 1816-1858 UT. This time, with the binocular, managed to see the planet reach the bushes on Southwick Hill, dim and brighten a few times as it dodged in and out of the branches and then finally disappeared for good. (Obs. #520). Regards maf.

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