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N.J.. Night sky: Mercury at dawn



In the early evening hours, we acquired a very beautiful representation of planets: Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars spread over the southern half of the sky.

Some stargazers have noticed that these planets do not appear okay. If you look at Venus and then scan to the left, you will reach Jupiter, Mars and then Saturn. Should not it be the other way around: Mars, Jupiter and Saturn? Remember that heaven is not a textbook; it is three-dimensional and the planets race at different speeds around the solar system.

Imagine the planets moving like race cars on a racetrack. We do not see the solar system from above in the stands, we are in one of the vehicles on the track. Our look is like one of the driver's helmet cameras. The planets are scattered all around us and can appear in any order as they move through their orbits.

But where is Mercury? The fastest of the big planets is now in a good position for observation, but it is in the morning sky before dawn. Since the planet is on the inner track, it never appears very far from the sun.

To look at him, you face the eastern sky between 5:30 and 6 o'clock in the morning. At 6 o'clock in the morning it is about 1

2 degrees above the horizon I need a view free of trees and buildings. To help you, look for Castor and Pollux, the twin stars of the constellation Gemini, high in the east. The star Castor is directly above Mercury. Point binoculars at Castor and drive straight to the horizon. Mercury should appear here as a bright spot of light.

The planet Mercury appears in the eastern sky this weekend. To find it, look for the twin stars of the constellation Gemini. Mercury appears under the star Castor.

When you aim a telescope at Mercury, it is recommended that you increase from 200 to 250, but you will not see much of the features. It's a small planet and our atmosphere tends to smear fine details, but you can easily see that the planet has phases like Venus and Moon. At the moment, from our point of view, the planet is lit by 41 percent of the sun.

Kevin D. Conod is a planetarium manager and astronomer at the Dreyfuss Planetarium at the Newark Museum. For updates about the night sky, call the Newark Skyline at (973) 596-6529.


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