Mercury transit visible from Greece on Monday

Eloise Marshall
November 11, 2019

This is because these are the only planets between us and the Sun.

Mercury will transit the Sun for the first time since 2016 this coming Monday. By the time the Sun rises on the West Coast, Mercury will have been transiting the Sun for almost two hours. See the transit map below to learn when and where the transit will be visible. Transits of Venus occur in pairs separated by 121.5 or 105.5 years, with eight years separating each transit; the next transit of Venus will occur in the year 2117.

Venus transits are much rarer.

Mercury transits have always been useful tools for scientists. They now occur in May or November. The next one isn't until 2032, so this is the last chance to see the tiny dot of Mercury traversing the sun.

Do not try to observe this event directly with your naked eye, or through exposed film negatives, smoked glass, mylar, or multiple sunglasses - they will pass infrared radiation which will damage your vision.

But the agency a telescope with a minimum magnification of 50x or binoculars with a solar filter can be used.

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In most of the United States and Canada, and New Zealand, the transit will be in progress as the sun rises. We'll set up in the plaza by the theater to be ready for viewers by 8 AM, and we'll stay until the transit is over at 10 AM.

However, some binos and scopes have filters on the front that block out enough sunlight that you can safely look through them, including the solar telescopes at Science North. Pinhole projection or eclipse glasses will be inadequate.

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. Unfortunately, our atmosphere and optical diffraction effects limited the accuracy of this method. Another use of transits is the dimming of sun or star light as a planet crosses in front of it.

Because of the slight difference in the orbits of Mercury and the Earth, Mercury transits only happen about 13 times per century.

Hopefully you'll have an opportunity to watch the transit on Monday. When exoplanets transit their parent star, we can detect the dip in the star's brightness using space telescopes.

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