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Mercury featuring prominently in October skies
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Oct 12, 2015

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Mercury is set to join the planetary party being held in the predawn sky. For the last couple weeks, Mars, Jupiter and Venus have been congregating in the Northern Hemisphere's morning sky.

Now through the end of the month will be one of the few times Mercury will be relatively easily visible.

Like Venus, Mercury's appearance is always closely aligned with the sun. For the next few weeks, Mercury will rise each morning in the east, just before the sun. It will linger for 30 for 45 minutes near the horizon before it's erased by the rays of the rising sun.

To see the closest planet to the sun, set the alarm for 5:45 a.m. and look just above the eastern horizon for a yellowish-orange star-like body.

As the end of October approaches, Mercury will get brighter and brighter. By October 30, Mercury will be brighter than every other star in the sky.

As Joe Rao reports, on October 30, "Mercury will appear side-by-side with the bluish first magnitude star Spica, in Virgo. Spica, however, will be only appear about one-sixth as bright as Mercury, so you'll probably need binoculars to spot it."

Sky-gazers can add a fifth planet if they're willing to forego some sleep. Saturn will disappear by the end of the month, but until then it's still visible in evening twilight.

As reports, on October 16, Saturn "crosses over into the boundaries of Scorpius, having spent the late spring, summer and early fall in Libra."

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The first measurements of Mercury's movements from a spacecraft orbiting the planet reveal new insights about the makeup of the solar system's innermost world and its interactions with other planetary bodies. Mercury does not rotate on its axis smoothly, like a record, but experiences regular fluctuations in speed over an 88-day cycle - a year on the closest planet to the sun. These oscill ... read more

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