Helio C. Vital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, mentioned to us earlier this week that he planned to try to capture this month’s Venus-Mercury conjunction. Neither of these planets is visible to the eye alone now, although both are in the evening sky. Their conjunction took place about 8 degrees east of the sun at sunset; thus, they are now exceedingly low in the west after sunset, buried in bright twilight. But Venus is bright. Helio managed to capture it a few days ago. And Venus doubtless helped him find fainter Mercury, too, on the evening of September 12, 2019. He wrote last night:
Fortunately, the weather helped, and I managed to get some photos of the Venus-Mercury close conjunction at today’s sunset. Only 27 arcminutes separated Venus (magnitude -3.9) from Mercury (magnitude -1.0) and the pair was still deeply inside the sun`s glare, as their angular distances from the Sun were respectively :7.8° and 8.2°. Catching Mercury at sunset using only the camera was quite a challenge, since it is shining 15 times dimmer than Venus.
All photos were taken around 17:48 +- 3 min. (UTC-3h) with a Nikon CoolPix P900 camera at manual mode and settings: texp=1/60s, F=6.5 and ISO 100.
Magnifications used were between 40 and 120 times. Only the camera (on a tripod) was used. No telescope was attached.
What makes this report interesting (in my opinion) is that a planetary conjunction so near the sun is very rarely recorded, let alone using only a digital camera without guiding or setting circles.
Amazing catch, Helio! Thanks for sending in the photos.
Bottom line: Photo showing the September 12-13, 2019, Venus-Mercury conjunction.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.