Observing Mercury's Current Apparition (March/April 2011)

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  • Member since
    December, 2006
Observing Mercury's Current Apparition (March/April 2011)
Posted by pilotstar on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 1:05 AM

As most of you may know, Mercury is currently displaying a fine evening show, so be sure to view the "Messenger of the Gods."  For a few days now, I've been observing Mercury near its meridian passage when the planet is at its maximum altitude, trying to get better seeing than that of later in the evening twilight. The famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed Mercury during the 1880s using this technique to observe and sketch surface features on Mercury with an 8" refractor at 200X.  I was fortunate enough to capture craters and other feaures on Mercury, including Schiaparelli's famous 'Figure 5' feature on photos I took of Mercury during a prior evening apparition. (My Mercury photos are in the Reader Gallery/Planets section.)  This time around I'm doing strictly visual observing of Mercury, using my trusty 6" f/8 Criterion RV6 Newtonian.

 If you attempt to view Mercury before sunset, BE SURE the sun is blocked from view,  and CANNOT BE SWEPT UP searching for Mercury. Mercury will be east of the sun. For safety reasons, Only experienced observers should attempt this method.  Since  sometimes the air has fairly good seeing just after sunset, Newbies and less experienced observers will fare quite well waiting until after sunset to look for Mercury.   A red or orange filter will improve the seeing somewhat and also aid in spotting the elusive planet.  Be sure to post your observations of Mercury if you spot any surface features on it.

Ernie (PilotStar)

 

 

  • Member since
    December, 2010
Posted by tower3 on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 7:12 AM

Pilotstar, thanks for the tips. I've been watching with binos until last night when Mercury was easily seen without them. It hasn't been an interesting target with the scope. Tonight I'll bump up the magnificaion and try red and orange filters. I remember reading in "Turn Left At Orion" about using different filters for the planets, I've got to remember to recheck some of my references when I find a new target. Now I've just got to remember where I put that book.

EASY DUDE, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER WAVE

From San Diego, Zhumell Z10 (Bubba is for all around observing)Telrad, Vixen VMC110L on a Porta Mount II,  Bushnell 10x50 (for beach) Garrett 10x50 classics (for Sylvia), Zhumell 80x20 on their Pro tripod(cuz they were cheap and sylvia digs 'em),  1.75 readers (so I can find the other stuff)

M44
  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by M44 on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 9:52 AM

Photographing craters and other features on Mercury is truly amazing. I've never been able to see or photograph more than its phases. I haven't seen Mercury this year and I'm in the middle of a total whiteout.

As far as I know you are the 4th person I've heard of who have managed to photograph Mercury through a telescope at all.

How can I be at one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it actually is?

http://philippugh.comlu.com/index.html

 

  • Member since
    October, 2007
Posted by Aratus on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:59 PM

The bright and dark areas on Mercury seem not to be related to craters or basins, but to contrasts with the rays produced by bright craters.  The effect is certainly real but not related to any actual topographical features.   Like Mars we seem to have a 'features map', and an 'albedo map' which are very different from each other.

Having said that, there have been reports for a long time of observers seeing craters on the terminator.

I have to admit that I have never seen any dark features on Mercury, but I haven't looked seriously with filters etc  - yet !  Who knows Surprise

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

Celestron Nexstar8i (8" SCT).

Celestron Skymaster binoculars 15x70

Other:0.63 & 0.33 correctors. X2 & X4 barlow.

Imagers: Meade DSI & Celestron NexImage.  Canon EOS 550D

 

 

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 7:24 PM

Here's the link to Ernie's impressive image of Mercury:

http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/media/p/465293.aspx

An afocal shot that I took of the planet last year through a 17" f/15 classical Cassegrain is posted at http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/media/p/442728.aspx

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

M44
  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by M44 on Thursday, March 17, 2011 4:32 AM

Ernie's shot is truly amazing and an inspiration to me to have a go with a webcam. I have a 127mm Maksutov, so it could be possible on an exceptionally clear day. I get a lot of false color, too but will have a go at processing it out.

Dave that makes you the 5th person I know to have taken amateur photos through a telescope. I've tried search engines a few times but it only gives NASA photos.

How can I be at one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it actually is?

http://philippugh.comlu.com/index.html

 

  • Member since
    October, 2007
Posted by Aratus on Thursday, March 17, 2011 7:12 AM

M44

Dave that makes you the 5th person I know to have taken amateur photos through a telescope

I don't know if I'm on your list, but I posted this photo last year.

The biggest problems are small angular size, and getting Mercury in a steady atmosphere.    Chromatic abberation, (the blue and red images not being in the same place) can be reduced by splitting the image in RGB and then moving the indiviual fames so they coincide, before re-combining the image.    I believe registax can do this automatically now.    The 'halation' which often surrounds Mercury can be reduced with filters.   I have read that a strong red filter both eliminates chromatic abberation and halation, and stands the best chance of revealling faint contrast features.    Mercury is best observed in daylight, but it needs to be a good angular distance from the sun.  

A general comment which cannot be posted too often.

!!!!!!!!!! Observing planets through a telescope while the sun is up is not for the inattentive or sloppy observer  .!!!!!

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

Celestron Nexstar8i (8" SCT).

Celestron Skymaster binoculars 15x70

Other:0.63 & 0.33 correctors. X2 & X4 barlow.

Imagers: Meade DSI & Celestron NexImage.  Canon EOS 550D

 

 

M44
  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by M44 on Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:51 AM

That now makes you number 6. I'd love to have a go tonight but it's clouded out here again.

How can I be at one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it actually is?

http://philippugh.comlu.com/index.html

 

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  • From: PA, USA, Earth Moderator
Posted by DaveMitsky on Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:03 AM

Another afocal shot of Mercury that I took in 2006 is posted at http://dvaa.org/php/mpix.php?p=Dave_Mitsky&i=2006-2-21_Mercury17inchAfocal

In both cases, I was interested in capturing the effects of atmospheric prismatic dispersion so I made no attempt to alleviate it. 

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

  • Member since
    October, 2005
Posted by leo731 on Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:08 AM

This really is a lovely apparition and I am thankful I was finally able to see it last night.  I got home from work around 7:15 PDT and noticed that the cloud filled sky had a gap in it to the west so I found a spot with a clear horizon and easily spotted Jupiter and Mercury in the deep blue twilight.  Jupiter was a bit brighter and to the lower left of Mercury but they made a fine pair with the naked eye.

If you haven't seen Mercury before this is a great time to have a look even if you have nothing more at hand than your own eyes.

L

 

A nebula in the eyepiece is worth two in the Atlas.

  • Member since
    December, 2006
Posted by pilotstar on Friday, March 18, 2011 1:27 PM

M44,

Looking forward to seeing your Mercury photo, good luck! Smile   I've been spending the last few days visually observing Mercury near meridian transit with my 6" f/8 Newtonian at 200X trying to spot Schiaparelli's 'Figure 5.'  (Today is clouded out.)Tongue Tied    With just fair seeing, I've only seen the bright Apollonia region, with brief glimpses of bright Pentas, and dark Solitudo Criophori -- hey, I'll take what I can get!  Mercury's CM (central meridian) is currently within a few degrees of when I took my photo on April 2, 2010, so you might be able to snag the 'Figure 5.'  Schiaparelli was certainly eagle-eyed -- seeing features on Mercury through a small scope is no easy task, but it is an interesting challenge!

I suggest you compare your finished photo with a simulation of Mercury as seen from Earth that can be obtained from Nasa's Solar System Simulator ( http://space.jpl.nasa.gov ) at the same time and scale of your photo as a check onyour results.   Looking at the simulation on a larger- size scale, you can see Mercury has huge numbers of varying-size craters.   On your much smaller- size photo, adjacent craters will, for the most part, be only partially or not-at-all resolved -- along with crater rays, these blend together to appear as a single unit. A few of the larger craters will be clearly resolved, true physical features, not just light/dark albedo features.

Dave, thanks for the link to my 'Figure 5' photo.  (Forum readers may also wish to see my other Mercury photo in the 'Gallery/Planets' section.)

Curt, my first telescope was a Criterion 1" AstroScope Refractor, a 14th birthday present!

Ernie (PilotStar)

 

 

M44
  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by M44 on Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:49 AM

I was unable to see Mercury with the unaided eye last night but saw both Jupiter and Mercury through my 15x70 bins. Somehow Mercury didn't appear quite round and Jupiter's much larger disc was obvious. No photo yet, though.

How can I be at one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it actually is?

http://philippugh.comlu.com/index.html

 

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  • From: PA, USA, Earth Moderator
Posted by DaveMitsky on Saturday, March 19, 2011 10:26 AM

Mercury will be at dichotomy (50% illuminated) on March 20.

I was able to see Mercury again last night through a 10x50 Celestron Ultima, an 80mm f/5 Orion ShortTube 80, and without optical aid.  I also took a few photos.

Dave Mitsky 

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

  • Member since
    June, 2009
Posted by StarFarmer on Sunday, March 20, 2011 10:45 PM

I don't know if I'm on that list either but here are a few of my feeble attempts.  Taken through a Meade 10" LX-200 Classic f/10.  Canon Rebel XSi with tele-extender (E.P. projection using a Meade Series 4000 25mm eyepiece.)  The wind was howling and Mercury was chasing it.  Single images--no stack--totally original.

This was at .5 sec./ISO 400/ 20Mar11 @ 19:37:30 CDT.

 

This was at 1/5 sec./ISO 400/ 20Mar11 @ 19:38:15 CDT.

 

I've been trying to get some of these over the last few days but the clouds have been a real menace.

**********************************************************************************************************

 Member since the spring of 2009.  Born 1958.  NW OK.  LX-200 EMC Classic (10") 

Explore Scientific 127mm APO Triplet.  Celestron CGEM mount available for both.

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Posted by DaveMitsky on Sunday, March 20, 2011 11:03 PM

As I mentioned in the Observing Reports section, I observed Mercury once more from my front yard on Saturday night with my 101mm Tele Vue refractor and, once again, I took a few photos of the planet from my backyard.   As the sun set on Sunday evening, I thought that I might have a chance to see Mercury for a fourth night in a row but the clouds coming in from the west made it impossible.  Had the clouds been a half hour slower, I would have nabbed it again.

Dave Mitsky

Sic itur ad astra!

Chance favors the prepared mind.

A man is a small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.

M44
  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by M44 on Monday, March 21, 2011 4:51 AM

I wouldn't describe your attempts as feeble. Any capture of Mercury through a telescope is an achievement. You've captured the phase, which is about as good as it usually gets.

I haven't managed a snap at this apparition. I've been clouded out or Mercury was simply too low in the sky.

How can I be at one with the universe when we don't know what 96% of it actually is?

http://philippugh.comlu.com/index.html

 

  • Member since
    October, 2007
Posted by Aratus on Monday, March 21, 2011 5:49 AM

It will be worth waiting up to another 7 or 8 days.   Mercury will be bigger then, and further from the Sun.    By then it will be a crescent too, which will make it look more interesting.

Aratus

Location:  North West Devon, UK

-------------------------------------------------

Celestron Nexstar8i (8" SCT).

Celestron Skymaster binoculars 15x70

Other:0.63 & 0.33 correctors. X2 & X4 barlow.

Imagers: Meade DSI & Celestron NexImage.  Canon EOS 550D

 

 

  • Member since
    December, 2006
Posted by pilotstar on Monday, March 21, 2011 12:36 PM

StarFarmer,

Looks to me you captured some detail on Mercury-- Good show! Smile  I strongly suggest you process your shots, one-at-a-time, in Registax or like software to remove chromatic(color) dispersion. Next, use the software's wavelet sliders and noise suppression feature to enhance your photos, then enlarge them.  You were very lucky to catch some detail in single-frame exposures, especially in poor seeing!  Please post your further processed photos.

Good luck,

Ernie (PilotStar)

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