Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. It orbits the sun every 88 days which means we get several short viewing windows a year. Most of the time it is too close to the sun to observe it. Though it is difficult, you can get an opportunity to view it if you know exactly when and where to look for it. You will be able to see the phases of Mercury, several mountains, and sometimes the craters if you can manage the perfect telescope.
Before we begin: Choose a star chart or proper astronomy app.
Various astronomy-related books, magazines, and websites provide star charts. Many apps are also now available like Celestron’s SkyPortal mobile app that provides planetary information and real-time sky map. They will help a lot to find the planet, Mercury. Just download the app and write the name on the search option.
How to find Mercury?
Step 1: Make sure that Mercury will appear in the sky
Make sure Mercury will be there in the night sky that night before your observing session. There are Mercury observation calendars available on the internet that can help you to know when and where on the sky Mercury will appear throughout the year.
You have to face towards the eastern horizon to view it in the morning. Try to look for it one hour before sunrise as sunlight will overwhelm the bright planet soon. In the evening, you have to face towards the western horizon to see Mercury.
Step 2: Find Mercury with the naked eye
Try to find mercury with your bare eyes at first as it will help you to adjust your telescope in the right direction easily. Mercury is in fact white in color. However, its proximity spreads a pinkish hue to the horizon. But with the naked eye, you will not be able to discern any detail on it.
Step 3 – Attempt to use Telescope to view Mercury
Once you get the position of Mercury in the sky, point your telescope towards that direction. Use the finder to center the planet in your main scope. The crosshairs will have to be centered at Mercury too. Now, look through the eyepiece to get the magnified view.
What is the best time to observe Mercury?
Mercury is said to be elusive as it is visible only for a few days every time when it reaches a maximum of 28 degrees away from the sun to the greatest elongation. To view it from the world, the earth needs to go at least 12° away from our sun at that time. It means that a full moon or twilight is the only time when it can be seen an hour after sunset or before sunrise.
Mercury reaches the greatest elongation 7 times this year 2022, alternating between evening and morning skies depending on whether it appears from the east of the Sun or the west.
Windows of the best time to see Mercury:
|Year||Evening Sky||Morning Sky|
|2022||Early Jan, late Apr, late Aug, late Dec||Mid Feb, mid-Jun, early Oct|
|2023||Early Apr||Late Sep|
|2024||Late Mar||Early Sep|
|2025||Early Mar||Mid Aug, early Nov|
6 Tips to observe Mercury in the best way:
- Look for it in the sky at the perfect time of the year according to the star chart.
- The moon can be your guide if it is in the vicinity of Mercury.
- Low-power eyepiece is the best to get the clearest view as you will get a wide view of the horizon.
- Mercury will look like a twinkling star as it appears low on the horizon (10-12 degrees) where the atmosphere is thicker.
- During inferior and superior conjunctions, Mercury cannot be seen due to the sun’s glare. Inferior conjunctions occur when Mercury, earth, and the sun are aligned and superior conjunctions happen when mercury is on the opposite side of the sun.
- Color filters with Wratten Numbers similar to # 21 Orange will reduce the brightness of the sun and improve the viewing experience.
What can you see on Mercury with a telescope?
- The phases of Mercury
- Mountains like the Apennines, Leibnitz Mountains, Caucasus, and Doerfel, etc.
What telescope to see Mercury?
Celestron Inspire 100AZ refractor, Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ, and Sky-Watcher Explorer 130 EQ2 are great telescopes to see Mercury. A list of telescopes to see the planet Mercury has more telescope options that can see Mercury very clearly.
What size telescope to see Mercury?
With a 50-70mm telescope, you will get great views of Mercury. The more the aperture, the better and sharper the views and the details. But to get the best details you should have a telescope with at least 100 mm of aperture.
What magnification is required to see Mercury?
The phases of Mercury can be seen in telescopes at 50x magnification. To see the details, you should use a telescope with at least 100 mm aperture at a magnification of 200-250x.
Enjoying Mercury? Here are other things to see with a telescope.
Mercury is the closest planet front the sun. However, you can observe the other planets of our solar system with the same telescope you use for viewing Mercury. There are thousands of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters observable with even a small size telescope. Go through the List of things to see with a telescope to learn what other objects are viewable with your telescope and plan for an observation.