The first planet Mercury, and the sixth planet Saturn will line up along your line of sight in the late autumn pre dawn skies. This one is worth taking a look at, as they are less than half a degree apart and will present a good imaging/photo opportunity if you have a clear south eastern sky.
Mercury is the most elusive planet, and never strays far from the Sun. By this particular morning it is on its way back towards the Sun in its orbit, having reached farthest elongation on the 17th of November. Mercury the battered and scarred rocky world, is scorched to 426 degrees C on the sunlit side, and drops to a bone shatteringly cold -173 degrees on the dark side. Mercury rotates slowly, a day on Mercury lasts as long as 58 Earth days.
Mercury lies below Saturn low in the south east, and is the brighter of the two planets at magnitude -0.54, showing an apparent diameter of 6.0 arc seconds.
Saturn the huge and serenely beautiful gas world surrounded by those majestic icy rings, lies above Mercury at under half a degree away, (the size of the full Moon in the sky measures around half a degree). Saturn appears pale yellow in the sky to your unaided eye, and on this morning shines with a magnitude of 0.76, and an apparent diameter of 36 arc seconds.
Get some perspective…
These two uniquely different worlds are so close by in the early morning sky, but separated by vast distances in reality. Mercury lies out at a distance of 110, 096, 858 miles, just over 1 astronomical unit. Saturn on the other hand is much further away at 1, 004, 684, 956 miles, that’s over a billion miles away or nearly 11 astronomical units.
You can see Saturn and Mercury rising from the south east from about 6.10 am GMT on the 26th of November, giving you a short window before daybreak wipes them from the sky an hour or so later.
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