Mercury Rising
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
 
The elusive planet Mercury has been putting on quite a show this year. First it was part of the planetary trio in May, along with Venus and Jupiter. Now it is time for our favorite speedy planet to cast off its partners and speed up to its highest point in our early night sky for 2013. This gives many folks a fairly rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of Mercury right after the Sun sets. 

Mercury and Venus are the only other objects, besides our Moon, that we can observe changes to the shape of their disc from our position on Earth. You will need a telescope to be able to see the changes in Mercury's appearance. At the beginning of the month Mercury will be waning gibbous, and by the middle of the month Mercury will be a crescent. 

Diagram of Mercury's postion in the west on June 12th.
The sky in the west shortly after 9:00 pm on June 12, 2013.
Image courtesy Stellarium.
 
Until recently we did not have a full map of Mercury. Thanks to NASA's MESSENGER Mission, we have now mapped all of Mercury's cratered surface and found many suprises: "hollows",  a weaker than expected magnetic field, and even strong evidence for water ice hidden in craters on the poles. You can follow the mission and find out the latest news on Mercury and MESSENGER here:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/index.html

But what if your view of the west is blocked, or you want to try getting a bit more detail on that tiny crescent of Mercury's disc? Your local Astronomy club may be able to help; there is a good chance they may be observing Mercury during one of their star parties. You can find star parties held by astronomy clubs in your area by using the apps below or by using this website!

 
Join our vibrant stargazing community!
 
We invite you to join the NASA Night Sky Network stargazing community on Facebook and Twitter for sky charts, beautiful images, and lively conversation. 
 
 
 
Distant Suns, your personal guide to the cosmos, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the main navigation bar. Distant Suns is available on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and NOOK.
 
 
 

 

SkySafari, a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the help menu. SkySafari is available for Android and the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

 


Clear skies and happy stargazing!

 
 
The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with NASA