On May 9 astronomy hounds will have the chance to see a once in a decade event when the solar systems hottest planet will pass across the sun.
As Mercury’s orbit comes in alignment with Earth, the little planet will be visible as a spot moving across the sun. Residents in the eastern part of North America, South America, Western Europe, and North and West Africa will have the best opportunity to observe the entire transit; but the event takes place in the daylight hours when it is most dangerous to view a solar event. The western portions of North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe can see the transit in progress with some areas catching the end of the transit as the sun is setting.
Mercury is a very small planet – a little larger than the Earth’s moon – and cannot be seen without the aid of some very powerful binoculars or a telescope. The best place to view this 10 year event is online via live streaming…with commentary. NASA TV, space.com, SkyandTelescope.com, Slooh.com, and virtualtelescope.eu are all offering a safe broadcast of the transit online.
Mercury will begin its transit across the sun at 7:12 am EDT and travel 30 miles an hour as it makes it seven and a half hour journey over across the sun. Unlike the sun spots that frequent the sun, Mercury will appear is a perfect black circle as it traverses the sun.
Amazingly, any time an object traverses the sun, even one as tiny as Mercury, the brightness of the sun sims just a bit.
Usually an event that occurs about every 10 years, the next transit will occur in 2019 but then it will be 13 years – 2032 – before the next transit will be visible to Earthlings again. Mercury transits can only be seen in May or November.
The next transit event will happen in 2017 when Venus makes its journey across the sun.
The closest planet to the sun, Mercury orbits the sun every 88 earth days.
Share with your friendsFollow Us