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Catching Mercury's Tail

26 Sep 2020, 03:51 UTC
Catching Mercury's Tail
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Mercury has a tail! And late September and early October will be the best times for amateurs to try and image it. Before going into details, a bit of background (this is an extended version of the tangent I did for the astrophiz podcast, the mercury tail talk starts around 17:11) Images of Mercury with a tail as seen in the STEREO spacecraft H1b imager. The left image is Mercury as seen in the H1a imager on January 16 of 2010.For contrast I've put the image from the H1b imager of 8 April to the right. The tail in the H1a imager is better on the 17th, but I've shown the 16th because of a rather unusual circumstance. On the 16th an asteroid passes behind Mercury, so you get a tail and an asteroidal occultation in the same picture. The tail (it points to the left in the left image, and right in the right image, the vertical bar is an imager artefact). The asteroid is 88 Thisbe. I should point out that I am a STEREOHUNTER, someone who hunts for comets in images from the stereo spacecraft, although I have been inactive for some years. Back in 2008 famed ...

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