Mercury, which is often difficult to see due to glare from the sun, will be visible before sunrise this Saturday, October 8.Photo credit: AstroStar / Shutterstock.com
October 8 is going to be a special day for stargazers — and they won’t even need to stay up all night.
Mercury, which is often difficult to see due to glare from the sun, will be visible before sunrise this Saturday. Indeed, Mercury will rise at 5:16 a.m. on October 8, according to The Old Farmers’ Almanac. You’ll be able to see it at 17 degrees above the horizon.
You can find an EarthSky illustration showing 17 degrees above the horizon here.
What You Need To Know About Mercury
Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and the closest to the sun. It is only slightly larger than Earth’s moon. And like the Moon, Mercury also has a rocky, cratered surface.
Interestingly, if you were to stand on Mercury, the sun would appear more than three times as large as it does when viewed from Earth. What’s more, sunlight would be as much as seven times brighter.
That doesn’t mean it’s always hot on Mercury, however.
Because it is so close to the sun, daytime temperatures on Mercury can reach around 800 degrees. On the other hand, Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere to hold that heat in, so at night, temperatures can fall to 290 degrees below zero, according to NASA.
Why Mercury Will Be Easier To See
Mercury is named after the Roman god known for his winged feet and speed because the planet’s orbit of the sun is so fast. Indeed, Mercury’s orbit of the sun only takes 88 Earth days.
That orbit also follows an elliptical, egg-shaped path. At its closest, Mercury is 29 million miles from the sun, while at its farthest, Mercury is 43 million miles from the sun.
Normally, Mercury is difficult to see because it gets lost in the glare from the sun. Then, for a few weeks at a time, about every 3 to 4 months, Mercury reaches its greatest elongation — or when it’s farthest from the sun, according to In-The-Sky.org.
This is what will happen on October 8. In fact, Mercury will remain bright and easy to see through October but it won’t be as high above the horizon before sunrise.
How To View Mercury
Viewing Mercury on October 8, or anytime for the rest of October, is easy.
All you need to do is go outside at 5:17 a.m. Eastern Time and look to the east. Mercury will be the bright object above the horizon.
You can find the exact time Mercury and other planets will rise and set in your local time here.
Finally, as the sun starts to rise, you’ll need to be careful. Remember to never use binoculars or a telescope to look at an object close to the sun because it can cause permanent eye damage.
Be sure to check out the rest of our stargazing content, including: