Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tonight's Sky for December 29: Mercury at its Best


Want to join a small club of people who have seen the planet Mercury? Well, here's your chance as the first planet from the Sun has reached a point in its orbit called greatest elongation, which is a fancy way of saying that, as seen from Earth, Mercury is as far from the Sun as it will get on this orbit, which is crucial for observing as, of all the Classical Planets (those known to the Ancient Greeks and Romans), Mercury is by far the hardest to spot because, as seen from Earth, it spends a lot of time obscured from view by the Sun's glare.


So, take a moment or two, go out just after sunset, and try to spot Mercury. If you are successful in spotting the speedy planet, you are accomplishing something that the great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (who rediscovered the idea of a sun-centered solar system) supposedly never did. 

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