Mercury in 2002

Late Spring 2002 witnessed a rare grouping of all naked eye planets in the west after sunset including, for a while, Mercury. See my Planetary Alignments pictures for naked eye views of this elusive planet. Below is the only telescopic one I achieved.

23 Apr 2002

Mercury 23 Apr 2002

Mercury; 23 Apr 2002, 21:04 to 21:06BST (20:38 to 20:43UT)

Mercury is on the far side of its orbit so presents nothing more than a small, bright pinkish-white disk. I was lucky enough to catch the planet as it passed into a gap between trees at the bottom of the garden, but at an altitude of only about 10 degrees, turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere prevented any details being seen on the planet. A gibbous phase of 71% (like the moon 5 days before full) is all that is evident. The Sun shines from the left in this view (north is down and west is left according to astronomical convention) so the missing dark side is to the right.

The red and blue colours should be ignored as they are a combination of refraction in the Earth's atmosphere and poor optical alignment in the telescope (I will have to see to this!).

Minolta Dimage 7, 48.8mm, afocal projection using 25mm eyepiece on 8.75inch f/7.3 Newtonian telescope. 1/60s @ f/14, running at ISO400. Scale of 0.3 arc second (= approx. 266km) per pixel. 10 pictures stacked with Astrostack v0.9 using Mean mode.


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