Mercury to appear as tiny black dot in rare 'transit' across sun
10 November, 2019, 20:15
This image of the Mercury transit's final minutes was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on May 9, 2016, with its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly.
The transit begins at 1235 GMT and ends at 1804 GMT, when Mercury appears to enter on one edge of the Sun and exit on the other.
Mercury will move across the sun's face and several spacecraft will have their sights set on the rare event.
Our Solar System is shaped like a large disk, as though the Sun were a large potato in the middle of a plate, and the planets are peas rolling around on that plate.
Read on to learn how transits contributed to past scientific discoveries and for a look at how scientists use them today. Considering how rare these events really are, it's clear that our galaxy is teeming with planets.
In the early 1600s, Johannes Kepler discovered that both Mercury and Venus would transit the Sun in 1631. Witnessing a transit is all a matter of timing. Mercury transits typically happen in May or November. That's what makes it look so tiny from Earth. But the transit isn't just an awe-inspiring spectacle; it has scientific importance, too.
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Some objects, like the Moon and Mercury, were originally thought to have no atmosphere. These planets, called exoplanets, are otherwise obscured from view by the light of their star. Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet. To see it, you'll need a telescope or binoculars outfitted with a special solar filter.
It is extremely unsafe to look directly at the sun through instrument eyepieces because concentrated solar rays can damage your eyes instantly and even blind you.
A look back at the transit of Venus in 2012. However, it won't be visible from Australia or most of Asia and Alaska. The transit will wrap up at 1:04 p.m. A pinprick of darkness will puncture a small hole in the sunlight as the planet traverses the solar disk during a 5.5-hour stretch, starting at 7:35 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST), this transit will last nearly six hours. Fortunately, the planet will take nearly 5.5 hours to completely cross the face of the Sun, so there will be plenty of time for West Coast viewers to witness this event. And, of course, to be visible, the transit must occur in daylight for your spot on the Earth.
This map shows where and when the transit will be visible on November 11. All telescopes with safe filters will be appropriate. Try looking for a viewing party at a museum or planetarium near you.
A screen-shot of the video shared by NASA.
Hopefully you'll have an opportunity to watch the transit on Monday.
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