Elusive Mercury will commence its evening apparition in the early evening western sky in late February following its superior conjunction behind the Sun on 2018 FEB 17. Due to the celestial geometry around sunset near the time of the Vernal Equinox, this will be an excellent apparition except for observers south of the tropics.
Through a telescope on MAR 13 Mercury will appear in dichotomy, i.e. 50% illuminated like a Half Moon. Prior to that it will appear gibbous and afterward as a crescent. By the standard of 30 minutes after sunset for Chicago, Mercury will reach its highest altitude of 11.6° on MAR 15. On that same date it will attain its Greatest Eastern Elongation of 18.4°. Mercury will begin apparent retrograde motion in right ascension on MAR 22. While decreasing in brilliance, it will fall to inferior conjunction between Earth and Sun on APR 01.
Mercury will appear near Venus on 2018 MAR 03 & 18.
The Moon will appear near Mercury on 2018 MAR 18 with no occultation.
NOTE: Event dates in this article are for North American Central Time at those moments nearest to 30 after sunset for Chicago.
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