Mercury will briefly reveal itself at dawn tomorrow (June 16) when the planet reaches its furthest separation from the sun as seen from Earth, also known as its greatest western elongation.
The elusive planet Mercury will reach a maximum angle of 23° west of the sun; viewers near the equator and further south will have the best viewing opportunities.
“Between approximately 4:30 and 5 a.m. in your local time zone, look for the planet of magnitude 0.45 shining very low in the east-northeast sky,” writes geophysicist Chris Vaughan, an amateur astronomer at SkySafari Software who oversees the Space.com’s Night Sky calendar. . “It will be positioned a fist diameter lower left of the much brighter Venus.”
The exact time of the event varies depending on your specific location, so you’ll want to check a sky-watching app like SkySafari or software like Starry Night to check the times. Our picks for the best stargazing apps can help you with your planning.
“Don’t worry if it’s cloudy on Thursday,” Vaughan said. “Mercury will be nearly as far from the sun on surrounding mornings.”
Related: The Brightest Planets in the June Night Sky: How to See Them (and When)
Mercury is generally a difficult planet to spot because its orbit is closer to the sun than Earth’s and is often obscured by glare from the sun. The best time to see Mercury is when the planet reaches its greatest elongation – its greatest angular distance from the sun. According to In-The-Sky.org (opens in a new tab) these appearances occur approximately every three to four months.
Mercury orbits the sun every 88 Earth days, traveling through space at nearly 112,000 mph (180,000 km/h), faster than any other planet. In 2019, a rare transit of Mercury occurred where the planet crossed the face of the sun. This won’t happen again until 2032.
If you’re looking for a telescope or binoculars to see planetary elongations as tomorrow’s event, our guides to the best binoculars deals and the best telescope deals can help. Our best cameras for astrophotography and our best lenses for astrophotography to get you ready to capture the next stargazing spectacle in a photo.
Editor’s note: If you take a photo of Mercury and would like to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.