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How to capture Mercury’s sodium tail

19 May 2021, 11:49 UTC
How to capture Mercury’s sodium tail
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steven Bellavia in Southold, New York, created this composite image of Mercury’s sodium tail on May 13, 2021. It consists of 30 stacked 30-second exposures of Mercury, combined with an image of that night’s crescent moon. Steven wrote: “A 15-million-mile-long (24-million-km-long) plume of gas is ejected from Mercury’s thin atmosphere due to the sun, very much like a comet. This is only visible using a narrowband filter that captures the bright yellow sodium light at 589 nanometers.” Thanks, Steven!
Mercury has a long flowing tail trailing away from the sun, much like a comet, visible in long-exposure photographs. Mercury’s tail was first predicted in the 1980s and discovered in 2001. NASA’s Messenger mission also revealed many tail details between 2011 and 2015 when it was orbiting Mercury. Nowadays, astrophotographers here on Earth are able to capture great shots of Mercury’s tail with the right equipment and a little know-how. See Steven Bellavia’s images above and below, and read more about the technique below.
Why does Mercury have a tail? The answer lies in part in sodium molecules that are freed from Mercury’s surface by the push of sunlight and micrometeorite impacts. The sodium atoms ...

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