The Moon and Mercury, 8/4/16

Mercury being that bright speck in the upper right.

This is the first time that I’ve either seen or photographed Mercury in the evening sky. For an astronomy buff like me, that’s a pretty big deal. Mercury is a tough one to capture.

Hope you’re all having a fine evening.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

24 replies on “The Moon and Mercury, 8/4/16”

During a week of not-so-great news in the world (to understate things by quite a lot) it’s nice to report something good: the MESSENGER spacecraft has successfully established orbit around the planet Mercury, beginning its new 12-month mission of mapping and researching the innermost planet of our solar system!

After traveling nearly 5 billion miles over the course of 6.5 years, MESSENGER has achieved what no spacecraft before has done. Mercury is now the final “classical” planet to be orbited by a manmade spacecraft, as well as the last of the inner planets to currently have an active orbiting research satellite of some sort.

I love the banner with the sunset; that’s beautiful.

My Mom asked me yesterday if Mercury was retrograde (because Trump had said something on her TV particularly acerbic and egregious, and also I was having software trouble).

I told her Mercury has about four retrograde cycles a year but the big guns, like Pluto, weren’t going to be going direct till a week after my birthday in September, which is / was one of the reasons why so much has already been so ridiculous this year … but also, to buckle in for the long ride, because “it’s going to be a bumpy night” is a blink of an understatement, even when delivered by the great Bette Davis.

Also (for what it’s worth), the Messenger mission ended a little more than a year ago with the craft being crashed into the planet (on purpose).

I’m sure you’ve used some kind of web-fu to explain how you took that photo, but it’s beyond me to find it on this posting. Would you mind making it a bit easier for me to understand? And thanks.

Mercury, that’s impressive. I now challenge you to get a picture of the International Space Station – it will overfly Bradford OH on the evening of Saturday 13th August, almost overhead (well it gets to 70 degrees azimuth, that’s pretty high but not actually overhead) , at 21:40 -21:47 and it will be really bright (mag -3.3, brightest thing in the sky). Details are on the website Heavens Above which tracks satellites

That seems like a lot of trouble. You could have just used your phone camera and the CSI “enhance, EnHaNcE, ENHANCE” software to turn it a super high resolution photo. It’s true… I seen on TV!

Seriously though… awesome shot.

How late after sunset did you get the picture? We also saw this (albeit Mercury only in binoculars) from a lake in Ontario cottage country. There were layers of hazy clouds and the sky was more peachy or red: certainly not blue.

For the next few days, if you have a clear sky and a very good horizon in the direction of sunset (roughly WNW) you can viewed.toron all five classical planets before full darkness falls.

Venus is closest to the sun and sets less than half an hour after sunset. (Since sunset times vary due to both latitude and [time zones] longitude, you have to check for your local times.) It’s very, very low, but a lot brighter than Mercury, and is easily visible to the naked eye if it’s visible at all.

Mercury is the hardest to see, and sets soon after Venus. You will need binoculars to find it first. It will only be visible to the naked eye if the sky is particularly clear.

Jupiter is fairly low in the west and easy to see. Further to the south, and still pretty low, Mars is still quite bright, and Saturn is pretty easy to see even in dusk.

There you go: Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. Look down and you can see Earth. We had knocked them all off before 9:30 PM EDT.

I love Mercury, have published technical papers about it, had a story about first human mission to Mercury, accepted for Harry Harrison’s DEATHWORLDS anthology, which never saw print because the Agent went nuts and destroyed the paperwork, making it impossible to reconstruct Permissions.

Jonathan Vos Post


Since Caltech/JPL observations suggest
possible water ice at the north and south poles
of the planet Mercury, it is now feasible to
consider a new class of human exploration
missions to these sites, and three classes of
robotic precursor missions that would precede
human exploration (impact/ orbital
spectroscopy, lander, sample-return).
Mercury polar ice could provide neutrino
detection opportunities and would provide in
situ resources for refueling spacecraft for
return to Earth.

“28mm – 300mm”


That’s a big lens.


I can’t imagine that doesn’t make you some sort of Nikkor ambassador by default.


Do I dare ask what you were stopped down to* to make those planetoid thingies spring out and be so clear …?

*sorry about the preposition placement there; I don’t think the camera people have worked that one out yet for the rest of us

Really nice shot. Don’t know much about technical photography, but I find the composition really appealing somehow. All that negative space in that vivid blue. Not sure why it matters, but somehow pleased to hear it is a “real” photograph, and not doctored up with a bunch of photoshop apps. It’s lovely.

Comments are closed.

Exit mobile version