Friday, April 16, 2010

Mercury Rising

In the last two years that I have been traveling I have got to know the stars that I have so often slept under. There's been one star however that I have never quite been a le to see. A Planet to be precise.


Both Mercury and Venus are within the orbit of the Earth around the sun. Thus, when the sun sets, Venus and Mercury set with it. Venus, closer than Mercury is known as the evening and morning star because of this. It is only visible after the sun is just below the horizon at dawn or dusk.

Mercury likewise, but it's visibility is much more sensitive! Because it is closer to the sun it is only in the sky for a little longer after the sun sets. If there are mountains or trees on the horizon you'll never see it. If your in a city, the ambient brightness is too strong. If mercury is on the other side of the sun in it's orbit, you have no chance either.

However, if you happened to be on Borocay Island in the Philippines, looking out to the ocean horizon, on April 19th... Well... Hurray!

Walking hand in hand on the beach Abby and I watched the sun set, then Venus, then mercury appear. In that moment we could literally see the actual spin of the earth as the sun slipped across the line of the horizon. And as the tiny dot of mercury appeared far in the distance we could feel ourselves on the third orbit of our solar system.