A rare occurrence is about to happen, Mercury is about to make a transit across the sun. With a sun filtered telescope, the black dot, which is Mercury will be visible. To the naked eye with proper sun protection, you won’t be able to see it, Mercury is just too small, about 1/194th the size of the sun. So what’s going on here? Mercury’s short orbit, only 88 days around the sun will be crossing the sun’s bright disc. The last time this happened was 13 years ago in 2006, before that was 33 years ago.
If you don’t have a telescope, the event will be streamed online, it will start for the East Coast at 7:35 AM, and last for five and a half hours. When events like this happen, we can use the various satellites that monitor the sun, like the solar dynamics observatory and get even more knowledge about Mercury and our Sun. The next time this happens and will be visible in North America will be 49 years from now.
Since Earth is the third planet from the sun, we have also been treated with Venus transits across the sun, most recently occurring in 2004 and 2012. If you missed those, that was our only chance in our lifetimes, the next one will occur on December 11, 2117. Because Mars, and the other planets are outside our orbit we cannot see those transit across the sun, but from their vantage points they can see Earth make the trek. The last time Earth made a Transit from Mars was on May 11, 1984. So Monday morning, don’t forget to take a look at the web stream or peek through a telescope and get a look as Mercury crosses the Sun.
Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson