Mercury Elongations

Mercury Elongations: As Mercury is much closer to the sun than Earth, it has a much faster orbit too. As Mercury swings through its orbit, it reaches points where it appears to be at a greater distance from the sun than other times (1 and 3.) This creates an Eastern or Western elongation. Since Mercury is so close to the Sun, it typically gets lost in its glare. Because of this, elongations provide us with our best chance of catching Mercury during the dawn or evening. Another effect of Mercury’s innermost orbit is sometimes it appears to pass in front of the Sun, resulting in a rare eclipse (2.) In short, Mercury's orbit makes it appear as if it is swinging back and forth while it is actually moving in an elliptical orbit around the Sun.
Image Credit: Calvin J. Hamilton

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