Starwatch: early risers can enjoy a Mercury morning

·1 min read

This coming week, there is a chance to spot the elusive inner planet Mercury in the morning sky. It will be tricky as the solar system’s smallest planet will only appear low in the dawn sky before the sunrise washes it away.

The chart shows the view looking east from London at 0700 BST on 25 October. The sky will already be twilit and Mercury will be at its greatest distance from the sun.

Looking for the planet on the mornings leading up to and following this day is also recommended. You will need to find an excellent eastern horizon, and for your best chance to glimpse the elusive world, begin looking from around 0615 BST.

On 25 October, Mercury rises at around 5.50am, with the sun following it into the sky at around 0740 BST. The only other bright object in that region of the sky will be the orange star Arcturus, in Boötes, the herdsman.

Mercury is without doubt the hardest of the naked-eye planets to see. According to a well-worn tale, the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus never set eyes on it, despite its movement being crucial to his theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system.

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