Elusive Mercury is presenting its late 2016 apparition in the early evening southwestern sky following its superior conjunction behind the Sun on 2016 OCT 27. This should be a moderately good apparition for observers north of the tropics, but much better for folks further south.
Mercury will reach its Greatest Eastern Elongation of 20.8° on 2016 DEC 10. By the standard of 30 minutes after sunset for Chicago, Mercury will achieve its highest altitude of 7.2° on DEC 14. Through a telescope that same day 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. Apparent retrograde motion in right ascension will commence on DEC 18. While decreasing in brilliance, Mercury will fall to inferior conjunction between Earth and Sun on DEC 28.
NOTE: Event dates in this article are for North American Central Time at those moments nearest to 30 minutes after sunset for Chicago.