Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 March 20
See Explanation. Go online for the highest resolution available.

Mercury on the Horizon
Credit: Juan Carlos Casado

Explanation: Have you ever seen the planet Mercury? Because Mercury orbits so close to the Sun, it is never seen far from the Sun, and so is only visible near sunrise or sunset. If trailing the Sun, Mercury will be visible for several minutes before it follows the Sun behind the Earth. If leading the Sun, Mercury will be visible for only several minutes before the Sun rises and hides it with increasing glare. An informed skygazer can usually pick Mercury out of a dark horizon glow with little more than determination. Above, a lot of determination has been combined with a little digital trickery to show Mercury's successive positions during the middle of last month. Each picture was taken from the same location in Spain when the Sun was 10 degrees below the horizon and superposed on the single most photogenic sunset.

View this page (with external links) online at

< | Archive | Index | Calendar | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman. Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index