Tonight

Mercury is back in the evening sky July 2024

Three charts for Mercury's path in July in the Northern Hemisphere.
The path of Mercury in the evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere in July 2024. It’ll lie close to the bright star Regulus. Chart via EarthSky.

Mercury is our sun’s innermost planet. So it always lies near the sun in our sky. Mercury is now back in the west after sunset. It’ll climb higher in the western twilight each evening as it races toward greatest elongation, its greatest apparent distance from the sun in our sky, on July 22.

Mercury after sunset in July 2024

Where to look: Look west, in the sunset direction – shortly after sunset – for Mercury.
Greatest elongation: Mercury is farthest from the sun on our sky’s dome – at greatest elongation – at 7 UTC (2 a.m. CDT) on July 22, 2024. At that time, Mercury will be 27 degrees from the sun in our sky.
Brightness: Mercury was bright when it emerged in the evening sky during the last week of June. At that time, it was shining at -0.6 magnitude. At greatest elongation, Mercury shines more faintly at magnitude 0.3. But it’ll be barther from the sunset glare then and still brighter than most stars! In the evenings after greatest elongation, the innermost planet will rapidly fade as it sweeps up from behind Earth, in orbit around the sun, causing its illuminated side, or day side, to turn away from us. It’ll disappear in early August 2024 and will reach inferior conjunction – when it passes between Earth and the sun – on August 19.
Through a telescope: Mercury will appear about 43% illuminated at greatest elongation. It’ll measure 7.8 arcseconds across.
Constellation: Mercury will lie in front of the constellation Leo the Lion at this elongation. Doubtless, most of the stars in this constellation will be lost in the twilight.
Note: As the innermost planet, Mercury is tied to the sun in our sky. As a result, it never ventures very far above the horizon after sunset. So as soon as the sun disappears below your horizon, your clock starts ticking. Will you see the glowing point of light that is Mercury before it drops below the horizon, following the setting sun? Note that this July, 2024, apparition of the sun’s innermost planet will be at its best for the year for the Southern Hemisphere.

Northern Hemisphere Charts for the Mercury

Dots for Mercury and Venus in July.
Venus will hang low in the west about 30 minutes after sunset on the last few evenings of July. Tiny Mercury will lie near Venus as well. Look for them in the bright evening twilight. Chart via EarthSky.
Twilight shot with a thin crescent moon, Venus, Mercury, and Regulus.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Rita Raina of Rockville, Maryland, captured this image on July 7, 2024, and wrote: “I have never before seen Mercury. Yesterday evening the sky was clear and right below the 2 day old Moon was a bright Star. SkyView App said it was Mercury! And to top it, the star visible on the right lower corner, just above the horizon, was Venus, and that the star on the upper left corner was Regulus! A perfect straight line! i think I got lucky again, after a long time though!” Thank you, RIta!

Chart for the Southern Hemisphere

Three charts for Mercury's path in July in the Southern Hemisphere.
The path of Mercury in the evening sky for the Southern Hemisphere in July 2024. The planet will lie close to the bright star Regulus. This will be the best evening apparition of the year for the Southern Hemisphere. Chart via EarthSky.

For precise sun and Mercury rising times at your location:

Old Farmer’s Almanac (U.S. and Canada)
timeanddate.com (worldwide)
Stellarium (online planetarium program)

Mercury events in 2024

Note: Times are in UTC

Jan 12, 2024: Greatest elongation (morning)
Feb 28, 2024: Superior conjunction (passes behind sun from Earth)
Mar 24, 2024: Greatest elongation (evening)
Apr 11, 2024: Inferior conjunction (races between Earth and sun)
May 9, 2024: Greatest elongation (morning)
Jun 14, 2024: Superior conjunction (passes behind sun from Earth)
Jul 22, 2024: Greatest elongation (evening)
Aug 19, 2024: Inferior conjunction (races between Earth and sun)
Sep 5, 2024: Greatest elongation (morning)
Sep 30, 2024: Superior conjunction (passes behind sun from Earth)
Nov 16, 2024: Greatest elongation (evening)
Dec 5, 2024: Inferior conjunction (races between Earth and sun)
Dec 25, 2024: Greatest elongation (morning)

Heliocentric view of Mercury July 2024

Circle with sun at center, planets around, and zodiac names on outer edge.
Heliocentric view of solar system, July 2024. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

A comparison of elongations

The farthest from the sun that Mercury can ever appear on the sky’s dome is about 28 degrees. And the least distance is around 18 degrees.

Also, elongations are better or worse depending on the time of the year they occur. So in 2024, the Southern Hemisphere will have the best evening elongation of Mercury in July 2024. And the Northern Hemisphere will have the best evening apparition in March.

In the autumn for either hemisphere, the ecliptic – or path of the sun, moon and planets – makes a narrow angle to the horizon in the evening. But it makes a steep slant, nearly perpendicular, in the morning. So, in autumn from either hemisphere, morning elongations of Mercury are best. That’s when Mercury appears higher above the horizon and farther from the glow of the sun. However, evening elongations in autumn are harder to see.

In the spring for either hemisphere, the situation reverses. The ecliptic and horizon meet at a sharper angle on spring evenings and a narrower angle on spring mornings. So, in springtime for either hemisphere, evening elongations of Mercury are best. Meanwhile, morning elongations in springtime are harder to see.

Chart with row of steep, alternating light blue and gray arcs, each with a date and height in degrees.
Mercury elongations compared. Here, gray areas represent evening apparitions (eastward elongation). Blue areas represent morning apparitions (westward elongation). The top figures are the maximum elongations, reached at the top dates shown beneath. Curves show the altitude of the planet above the horizon at sunrise or sunset, for latitude 40 degrees north (thick line) and 35 degrees south (thin line). Maxima are reached at the parenthesized dates below (40 degrees north bold). Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

More Mercury evening elongation comparisons for 2024

Sky chart with constellations, arc-shaped dotted planet paths, and objects labeled.
Mercury’s greatest evening elongations in 2024 from the Northern Hemisphere as viewed through a powerful telescope. The planet images are at the 1st, 11th, and 21st of each month. Dots show the actual positions of the planet for every day. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.
Sky chart with constellations, arc-shaped dotted planet paths, and objects labeled.
Mercury’s greatest evening elongations in 2024 from the Southern Hemisphere as viewed through a powerful telescope. The planet images are at the 1st, 11th, and 21st of each month. Dots show the actual positions of the planet for every day. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2024 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Mercury photos from our community

Sunset with tall, narrow, bare trees to left and label of Mercury on small dot in blue twilight sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Joel Weatherly in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, took this image on April 23, 2022. Joel wrote: “Lonely little Mercury is making an appearance in our evening skies. Despite being elusive, it was easy to see without optical aid once sighted.” Thank you, Joel!
Silhouette of lifeguard tower in the foreground, crescent moon and Mercury in an orange and blue twilight sky.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Chix RC captured this image on January 3, 2022, from Hermosa Beach, California. See Mercury to the upper right of the crescent? Chix wrote: “A faint young moon at 1% illumination and Mercury.” Thank you, Chix!
Earth and Mercury orbits with sun in middle and red lines of sight from Earth to Mercury and the sun.
At greatest elongation, Mercury is to one side of the sun and is at its greatest distance from the sun on our sky’s dome. Mercury reaches greatest eastern (evening) elongation from the sun on July 22, 2024. It is then 27 degrees from the sun in the evening sky. Chart via EarthSky. .

Bottom line: Mercury is visible in the evening sky. Look in the west as the sky is darkening. The planet will reach its greatest elongation on July 22, 2024.

Submit your photos to EarthSky here.

Read about greatest elongations, superior and inferior conjunctions: Definitions for stargazers

Posted 
July 5, 2024
 in 
Tonight

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