Crikey, Mercury Is Going to Transit the Sun

Mercury will put on a rare celestial show Monday, parading across the sun in view of most of the world. During the transit, when Mercury is close to the edge of the Sun, it is possible to see the "black drop" effect, where a broad line appears to connect the planet to the solar limb.

Mercury transit 2019 will be seen from Middle East, Africa, and Europe at sunset time, while it will be seen from Eastern and Central America at noon and from US and Canada at sunrise, the full duration of transit will be 5 hours and 30 minutes, Dr Marzouk added. The orbits of the major planets exhibit slight tilts relative to the ecliptic; all are in the 1 to 2 degree range except for Venus at 4 degrees and Mercury at 7 degrees.

People will need the magnification of a telescope (minimum of 50x) with a solar filter to view the transit.

Mercury's next transit isn't until 2032, and North America won't get another viewing opportunity until 2049.

Transits occur when planets come between us and the Sun, meaning that only two planets can transit: Venus and Mercury. On an average, there will be 13 or 14 transits of Mercury each century. the first transit was seen in 1631, nearly 20 years after the invention of the telescope by French astronomer Pierre Gassendi. Well, I'd advise against staring directly into the Sun and even more strongly against staring into the Sun through binoculars or a telescope. Another use of transits is the dimming of sun or star light as a planet crosses in front of it.

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After observing the transit of Mercury in 1677, Edmond Halley predicted that transits could be used to accurately measure the distance between the Sun and Earth, which wasn't known at the time.

Numerous thousands of exoplanets we've been finding around other stars were discovered when they transited the face of their suns, mostly by the Kepler spacecraft. An important reminder: NEVER look directly at the sun without proper eye protection. But remember, don't look directly at Mr. Sun. And, of course, to be visible, the transit must occur in daylight for your spot on the Earth.

The transit of Mercury will be partly or fully visible across much of the globe.

Mercury's trek across the Sun begins at 4:35 a.m. PST (7:35 a.m. EST), meaning viewers on the East Coast of the USA can experience the entire event, as the Sun will have already risen before the transit begins. Attending a viewing party at a local museum or an astronomy club event is suggested since looking directly at the sun is harmful.

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.

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