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  1. #1
    Alfonso Garibay's Avatar
    Alfonso Garibay Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    Hello all,

    I have two scopes, a Stellarvue 80mm and an Orion 8" dob and I am
    trying to view all the planets with both scopes. The remaining
    planets I have yet to view are: Mercury, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto
    (it's still a planet to me no matter who says what!!)
    Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune will be visible later in the year and I
    believe I will be able with the help of sky charts to locate and
    view Uranus and Neptune.
    Admittedly I will not be able to see Pluto with either scope this
    side of heaven but that's okay..
    However I have a question or two about observing Mercury.
    Is it possible, with a solar filter of course,to observe Mercury
    during the day as one would observe the sun?
    and secondly. . . could anyone provide some helpful tips for
    observing Mercury, either during the day or evening?

    It's a thrill to view the planets and I want to be able to see them
    all, even if a few of them appear as nothing more than a fat point
    of light.
    Everytime I see them I am in awe of the Lord's handywork.

    thanks for yr suggestions.

  2. #2
    Howard Lester's Avatar
    Howard Lester Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    "Alfonso Garibay" wrote

    Certainly you can't observe *anything* except the sun when viewing through a
    solar filter. Think about the purpose of a solar filter. Better to wait for
    a good apparition of Mercury and view it in the twilight of dawn or dusk.
    You'll need a clear horizon, however.

  3. #3
    Thomas Womack's Avatar
    Thomas Womack Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    In article <NA8xl.1301$>,
    Alfonso Garibay <> wrote:

    You can't use a solar filter, it would dim Mercury to complete
    invisibility (it dims the Sun to be about as bright as the Full Moon,
    which is a factor about 100000, and would dim Mercury to be as faint
    as Pluto). So you have to be particularly careful, wait for Mercury
    to be a long way from the sun, and use a telescope which you can point
    to where you know Mercury to be (IE something with scales on the axes
    so that you can point it to a position by coordinates).


  4. #4's Avatar Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    On Mar 21, 9:28 am, Alfonso Garibay <> wrote:

    Alfonso: Mercury is one of my favorites and I try to catch it
    whenever possible. Due to its closeness to the sun, Mercury is never
    far from the horizon but according the Cartes du Ciel, later next
    month will be favorable for observing Mercury soon after dusk. On
    April 26th, it is 19 degrees altitude at sunset, on the 14th it will
    be 14 degrees altitude at Sunset and on the 10th it will be about 10
    degrees altitude at Sunset.

    I will probably start looking sometime between the 10th and the 14th.
    Mercury is much more difficult to see than Venus, I usually don't pick
    it up until 10 or 20 minutes after the sunset. I would suggest your
    SV-80mm, there isn't a lot to see, it is always low on the horizon
    and so the atmosphere is unstable. But on a good night, you can see
    something of the phase. Before I go out to look I use a program like
    Cartes du Ciel to find out exactly where it will be and then use
    binoculars and/or a low power widefield eyepiece to find it. Then I
    increase the magnification to see if I can see any shape, I suggest at
    least 100X and maybe as much as 200x.

    During the day, Mercury can be seen but I have never seen it. It is
    more considerably more difficult than Venus which can sometimes be
    seen naked eye during the day. A solar filter is not the right tool
    though unless Mercury is passing in front of the Sun. For a daytime
    planetary observation, I try to figure out where the planet is in
    relation to the sun and then make sure the telescope (and myself) are
    in the shade but I can still see the intended target. This way I
    protect myself from accidentally looking at the sun.

    Of course right now, Venus is at it's best, racing into the sunset as
    a large, bright crescent.


  5. #5's Avatar Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    Alfonso Garibay wrote:

    You may find detailed finder charts (check and/or helpful in identifying Uranus and Neptune. In small
    telescopes and at low magnifications inexperienced observers might
    mistake them for background stars. Use the 8" for your first views.
    Once you think you've spotted one of these planets (look for a blue-
    green colored star) crank up the magnification to reveal the planet's
    disk, thereby removing all doubt as to the identity of your target.

    Seeing Pluto would depend on your sky darkness and experience. Under
    a sufficiently dark sky some experienced amatuers have seen Pluto with
    a 4-inch telescope. But most amateurs don't have easy access to dark
    enough observing sites to achieve success with that small of a
    telescope. An 8-inch will suffice for a somewhat experienced amateur
    under 'reasonably dark' skies, but again, the sky must be 'reasonably'
    dark and the observer's eyes must be sufficiently dark adapted.

    Use of a solar filter would only work when the planet is in transit
    across the solar disk.

    Jon gave some good advice. The main thing I would add would be: Find
    some good finder charts (again, and/or ought to suffice). Mercury is a fast moving planet and
    it never appears too far from the sun. Your best bet is to wait for
    favorable elongations (check the websites). If you have binoculars,
    use them! Of all possible instruments, IMO binoculars work best for
    spotting Mercury in the morning or evening twilight. After spotting
    the planet with binoculars you can train a telescope on it for a
    closer view.

    I wouldn't suggest attempting to see the planet in the daytime until
    you've gained more experience and figured out a few tricks to make it
    easier (and safer). Nevertheless, I *will* mention that there's a
    sketch somewhere in my blog of a daytime observation of Mercury with a
    daytime comet in the same FOV!

    Bill Greer
    To sketch is to see.

  6. #6
    AM's Avatar
    AM Guest

    Default Observing Mercury wrote:

    I have seen it in the daytime with a C 8,
    and C 11/G 11. Both scopes using manual
    setting circles and a very good polar
    alignment to do it.
    Only reason I do it is because my horizons
    are non existent. (trees)
    I have some daytime images on Venus, but
    none of Mercury yet.


  7. #7
    David Nakamoto's Avatar
    David Nakamoto Guest

    Default Observing Mercury

    Alfonso Garibay wrote:

    As others have remarked, if you use a Solar filter, you can't see
    anything else, for abandon that idea.

    One idea is to use a building to block the sun (basically stay in the
    building's shadow) and try and observe Mercury that way, but best to try
    this when Mercury is either as far East or West of the sun as it can
    get. This has the advantage of seeing Mercury through a lot less
    atmosphere than when it's near the horizon. The downside is that you'll
    need to search a lot more to find it, and the danger is that if you're
    not careful to keep the sun behind the building, you run the risk of
    blinding yourself if you accidentally point the scope anywhere near the Sun.

    Good Luck !

    --- Dave



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