Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mercury, at last!

It's an over-hyped story. This often referred story from the National Geographic recently about seeing five planets aligned in the morning sky.

Firstly, the illustration is misleading. Don't ever expect to see the planets in their full splendour. No, they are all pin pricks of light in the dark sky. The illustration also show the planets lined up low down in the sky, almost hugging the horizon, and within our normal field of vision, which is wrong because from our point of view in the tropics, they are all directly overhead and you will have to turn your head from one end of the sky to the other.

Secondly, except for Venus and Jupiter, the other planets are very dim. It is almost impossible to see Mercury. Thirdly, unless you attempt to sky-watch from a completely dark and open area, the ambient light will interfere with the experience. As I say, an over-hyped story.

Having said all that, I wish to say that finally, I've managed to catch a glimpse of Mercury. I've been grumbling ever so long because from the front of my house, it has been impossible for me to see this planet. My house, and my neighbours' houses, block the view and moreover, the street lights and the porch lights all interfere with my view.

When I happened to wake up early this morning, something made me pick up my camera when I decided to walk around the neighbourhood. And suddenly when I turned into a dark back alley some distance away, lo and behold, both Venus and Mercury came into view. There it was, very low in the still dark sky but unmistakably Mercury. Finally, after more than 10 years of peering skywards from my house, I have seen this elusive planet. What a sight, indeed!

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