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See Mercury at its best meet Mars in the dawn sky

18 Nov 2019, 15:41 UTC
See Mercury at its best meet Mars in the dawn sky
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Innermost planet Mercury puts on its best morning display of the year for Northern Hemisphere observers from late November to early December. Skywatchers in the British Isles should find a location offering an unobstructed view of the southeast horizon about 45 minutes before sunrise to get the best views. This looping animation shows the changing configuration of Mercury, Mars and Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, from 18 November through 3 December at dawn. Note the span of a fist at arm’s length (about 10°) for scale, but the Moon’s apparent size on 24 and 25 November has been enlarged for clarity. AN animation by Ade Ashford.Mercury’s transit of the Sun on 11 November is still fresh in the memory, but it doesn’t take long for the innermost planet’s orbital motion to carry it far enough west of the Sun to be visible low above the southeastern horizon in dawn twilight. In fact, for Northern Hemisphere observers, the remainder of the month into early December offers Mercury’s best morning viewing prospects for the entire year.
Any opportunity to get a glimpse of this elusive and fast-moving planet is well worth getting up a little earlier for, particularly when – as now – ...

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