Mercury's Westernmost Elongation: A Celestial Spectacle in May 2024

Mercury reaches its westernmost elongation on May 10, 2024, making it visible before dawn in the Pisces constellation alongside Mars and Neptune. During this rare alignment, Saturn will also be visible in the nearby Aquarius constellation.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Mercury's Westernmost Elongation: A Celestial Spectacle in May 2024

Mercury's Westernmost Elongation: A Celestial Spectacle in May 2024

On May 10, 2024, stargazers will have a rare opportunity to witness Mercury reaching its westernmost elongation from the sun, making it visible before dawn in the Pisces constellation. This celestial event will showcase Mercury alongside Mars and Neptune in Pisces, with Saturn also visible in the nearby Aquarius constellation.

Mercury, the innermost planet of our solar system, is often difficult to observe due to its proximity to the sun. However, during its greatest elongation on May 9, Mercury will be 26.4° west of the sun, providing a window of visibility for early risers. On May 6, skywatchers can use the 28.5-day-old, 4.1% illuminated crescent moon as a guide to locate Mercury, which will be positioned 3.2° south-southwest of the lunar sliver.

During this apparition, Mercury's earliest rise time will occur on May 25 at 4:26 am EDT. While Uranus may be spotted 1.3° north of Mercury on May 31, its low position on the horizon and the bright twilight will make it challenging to observe the ice giant.

As Mercury takes center stage, other planets will also be visible in the May 2024 sky. Mars, slowly brightening to around magnitude 1.1, will be comparable to the red supergiant star Antares in the Scorpius constellation. Saturn, positioned in Aquarius, will rise before 4:00 am EDT in early May, offering a prime opportunity to observe its ring plane angle, which has notably changed since January.

Venus, on the other hand, will be approaching its superior conjunction and will be difficult to observe throughout May. Jupiter, visible low in the west-northwest after sunset during early May, will reach conjunction on May 18, temporarily disappearing from the evening sky.

Mercury's westernmost elongation on May 10, 2024, promises to be a captivating celestial event for astronomy enthusiasts and casual stargazers alike. With the innermost planet visible alongside Mars, Neptune, and Saturn, this rare alignment offers a unique opportunity to observe multiple planets in the predawn sky. As Mercury reaches its greatest separation from the sun, skywatchers can marvel at the intricate dance of our solar system's celestial bodies.