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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two Wetaskiwin locals walk 374 km for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

Gary Mason and Tracey Paluck walked from the Saskatchewan border all the way to the B.C. border.

Local Restaurant asks City for help with excessive property damage caused by continuous loiterers

Employees say that they are scared for themselves and their customers.

Thorsby RCMP called to plane crash this weekend

Thorsby RCMP located two deceased occupants in the plane.

Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam acclaimed to AUMA Board of Directors for Second Term

This will be Mayor Gandam’s second consecutive term.

No safe mask option for bearded members, RCMP says, but force is exploring solutions

RCMP says respirator not mandatory in all front-line situations, but sometimes needed to reduce risk

First annual Best of Wetaskiwin Readers’ Choice Awards

Enter to win a $200 gift card for Canadian Tire.

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $50 million Lotto Max jackpot

Jackpot for the next draw will grow to approximately $55 million

Wilkinson aims to be B.C. premier after cabinet role, working as doctor and lawyer

The B.C. election is Wilkinson’s first as the Liberal party leader

First Nations police services look to throne speech pledge for higher, stable funding

‘I won’t be happy until I hear two words: royal assent’

Most Read