In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth on May 9, 2016 in a transit which lasted seven-and-a-half-hours. On Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, Mercury will make another transit, visible from the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein via AP)

Mercury putting on rare show Monday, parading across the sun

Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull’s-eye this time,

Mercury is putting on a rare celestial show next week, parading across the sun in view of most of the world.

The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet will resemble a tiny black dot Monday as it passes directly between Earth and the sun. It begins at 7:35 a.m. EST.

The entire 5 1/2-hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out.

Unlike its 2016 transit, Mercury will score a near bull’s-eye this time, passing practically dead centre in front of our star.

Mercury’s next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another viewing opportunity until 2049. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury transits a century.

You’ll need proper eye protection for Monday’s spectacle: Telescopes or binoculars with solar filters are recommended. There’s no harm in pulling out the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the U.S. two years ago, but it would take “exceptional vision” to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young.

Mercury is 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres) in diameter, compared with the sun’s 864,000 miles (1.4 million kilometres.)

During its 2012 transit of the sun, larger and closer Venus was barely detectable by Young with his solar-viewing glasses.

“That’s really close to the limit of what you can see,” he said earlier this week. “So Mercury’s going to probably be too small.”

Venus transits are much rarer. The next one isn’t until 2117.

Mercury will cut a diagonal path left to right across the sun on Monday, entering at bottom left (around the 8 hour mark on a clock) and exiting top right (around the 2 hour mark).

Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the sun at roughly 150,000 mph (241,000 kph).

NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, with only a brief lag. Scientists will use the transit to fine-tune telescopes, especially those in space that cannot be adjusted by hand, according to Young.

It’s this kind of transit that allows scientists to discover alien worlds. Periodic, fleeting dips of starlight indicate an orbiting planet.

“Transits are a visible demonstration of how the planets move around the sun, and everyone with access to the right equipment should take a look,” Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement from England.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

From the ground up: TREE making a difference in Cowichan

It was a warm September day and after digging the first few… Continue reading

Mary Lowther column: Growing out and saving seed for next year

I progressed to the potential heresy of growing some plants specifically to harvest the seed

Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-op hands out $50K

‘Legacy grants’ have gone to a variety of groups for everything from a heat pump to meals on wheels

Cowichan Milk Company: from grass to glass

Farm stand open 6 days a week, and home delivery is available everywhere from Mill Bay to Chemainus.

UPDATE with VIDEO: Daughter calls for animal safety measures after fatal accident on Cowichan’s Hwy. 18

“Safety studies and improvements to Highway 18 are vitally important”

Federal laws at heart of West’s anger up for debate, as Liberals begin outreach

Vancouver mayor to Trudeau’s western critics: ‘Get over yourselves’

Snowboard pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011

Teen developed ‘popcorn lung’ due to vaping: Ontario doctors

Boy went from being in perfect health to being on life support after just five months

B.C. judge tosses ‘N’ driver’s claim he was just using phone to decline his mom’s call

Distracted driving laws are more strict for Class 7, or Novice drivers, the judge noted

Woman calls 911 to say she was late for train, asks Ontario police for ‘emergency ride’

Peel Regional Police received more than 180,000 improper calls so far this year

It could take you 218 years to save up for a house in this B.C. neighbourhood

It would take 27 years in the most affordable city in the Lower Mainland

Victim of downtown Courtenay assault dies from injuries

Person of interest identified by RCMP

‘Actors can play any roles’: Debate over ‘colour-blind’ casting after Victoria lawsuit

Tenyjah Indra McKenna filed a complaint over racially-motivated casting

Most Read