See the solar system's smallest, innermost planet from Earth on Friday

Mercury is best seen before sunrise

By Jonathan Stacey - Meteorologist
Getty Images

In this handout from NASA, Mercury is seen from the Messenger spacecraft January 14, 2008. (Photo by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington via Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On January 19th Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation of 24.1 degrees from the Sun. In astronomy, a planet's elongation is the angular separation between the Sun and the planet with Earth as the reference point. As a result of this rare elongation, we'll be able view see the solar system's smallest planet from Earth. 

 

Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise, because the planet is expected to rise about 100 minutes before the sun. Friday our sunrise is 7:23 a.m., therefore, the optimum viewing time would be around 5:43 a.m. In Jacksonville, we're expecting clear skies, so your view should not be obscured locally.

 

According to EarthSky, Mercury is tricky, even when it becomes visible. If you look too early, Mercury will still be under the horizon; if you look too late, it will be obscured by morning twilight. 

 

If you don't catch Mercury Friday all hope is not lost because Mercury doesn't disappear from view until early February. January 2018 has been a month filled with bright planet sighting/ Mars, Jupiter and Saturn could all been seen from Earth before dawn at certain times throughout the first month of the year. Mercury is bringing up the rear and is sure not to disappoint those who enjoy a quick glance of a planet that's 48 million miles from Earth.

 

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