Where’s Mercury?

This morning was the conjunction of Moon, Mercury and Venus. Due to various astronomical variables which I won’t bore you with, the southern UK was not the best place to see this. However, I got up at 5.30am and drove up to Wittenham Clumps (a nearby Iron age hillfort and just about the highest point within easy reach). The sky was just starting to lighten as I walked up from the deserted car-park. There was frost on the ground and the car temperature was reading -3.5ºC. It was perfectly clear right down to the horizon.

Then I spotted the slender Moon rising, an awesome sight and started snapping off some pictures. Soon afterwards I could just glimpse Venus, easy in binoculars, but couldn’t see Mercury. I continued taking photographs at various exposures hoping that one would capture the inner planet. As the sky began to brighten I knew my chances of spotting Mercury were dwindling, especially as it was 40x fainter than Venus and I could only barely see that. I never did spot it in the binoculars. The sky was by now too bright to even spot the Moon, so I waited for sunrise about 15mins away. It was cold, very cold. And then rapidly the Sun burst above the horizon and on my hilltop perch I was the first to be basked in sunshine as the valley about lay frozen white and in shadow. A glorious experience even if I didn’t quite manage what I set out to do.

Mercury is marginally visible on one or two of my photos, I’m going to have a go at stacking them to try and bring it out. I will post any successful results here