How to watch Mercury transit the Sun on Monday
|National Post 09 Nov 2019 at 11:43|
“This is a poetic moment to me where you’re seeing Mercury doing this amazing thing: crossing in front of this gigantic ball of nuclear burning that is our sun,” said Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
From here on Earth, our solar system’s innermost planet will appear as a black dot cruising over a gigantic glowing red disk — although don’t look directly at it, as staring into the sun will damage your eyes.
What is a transit of Mercury?
Cosmically speaking, a transit is when a celestial body — like a planet or moon — moves between a larger object and some observers, typically us on Earth.
The most famous transit is a solar eclipse, when the moon passes in front of the sun, like during the 2017 Great American Eclipse. There is also a lunar eclipse, where Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon, casting a reddish shadow on the lunar surface.
Because Earth is the third planet in our solar system, we can see the transits of Mercury and Venus. Mercury transits occur about 13 times every century, according to NASA. Because of Mercury’s and Earth’s orbits and tilts, such crossings tend to occur near May 8 or Nov 10.
Transits of Venus are even rarer. The last one was in 2012 and the next won’t be until 2117.
Viewers on the West Coast of the United States can catch part of the show after the sun rises. People living in South America, western Africa and western Europe will also see much of the event. Parts of Australia and southern and west Asia will also catch some of the trip.