Your best chance to see the innermost planet Mercury before dawn comes in early September 2011.
Our sky chart shows the eastern sky for about one hour before sunrise at our mid-northern latitudes. If it’s clear, there’s a good chance that you’ll spot Mercury – the solar system’s innermost planet – sneaking onto the stage of sky at or just before dawn. But to catch this elusive world, you’ll need a level, unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunrise.
Mercury stands farthest west of the sun tomorrow, so it rises a maximum time before sunrise in the eastern sky. At our mid-northern latitudes, that’s about 1.5 hours before the sun. Still, it’ll take a deliberate effort to catch this world. It’s with good reason that the ancients regarded Mercury as the god of thieves. Like a thief, this world hides behind obstructions, such as trees or buildings. You’ll find it near the horizon, below the Gemini stars Castor and Pollux, and the red planet Mars
Mercury’s rising time in your sky
Timing is essential for catching Mercury. If you look too soon, Mercury will still lurk beneath the horizon. If you look too late, it’ll disappear in the sun’s glare. ...