Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system, and a single day lasts 176 days you can spend on earth on Mercury. And we are all set to get a rare and spectacular view of this tiny planet as it will pass across the sun in an event called a transit.
It will happen today (Monday, Nov 11th, 2019) when Mercury will pass between Earth and the sun. Since the planet is so tiny and so close to the sun, it cannot block the sunlight as the moon does during an eclipse. But it will be visible from Earth as a wee dot silhouetted against a vast backdrop that will seem to be glowing, according to NASA.
Now, this rare sight happens only 13 times in a century and you will be able to watch the Mercury slowly moving across the sun, though it will just appear as a black speck. So if you have the plan to witness the Mercury, don’t miss it, as you won’t be able to catch it again till 2032.
The sighting will begin at 7:36 a.m EST on the eastern coast of the U.S. and will already be underway when the sun rises west of the Rocky Mountains. The planet will travel across the sun by around 11:20 a.m. EST and the transit will last for around 5.5 hours, finishing at 1:04 p.m. EST according to NASA.
If you are lucky and the skies are clear, the transit can be witnessed from most of North America; Europe, Asia; All of South America and Africa.
You will need a set of binoculars or a telescope if you want to watch the swiftly moving tiny planet. Protective solar filters are required to any device that points directly at the sun, to prevent serious damage to eyes of course. And keep in mind that disposable eclipse glasses should not be used with binoculars and telescopes.
This Mercury transit is not just an awe-inspiring spectacle, it has scientific importance too. Since during the transit, researchers can study the planet’s exosphere, to determine their distribution and density, as told by Rosemary Killen (NASA’s Scientist) in a statement.
So if you have any plan to witness this tiny planet moving across the Sun without going out, you are in luck since the online observatory Slooh will be hosting a live webcast of the Mercury transit, free on their youtube channel. Here is the link to the live broadcast –
Slooh’s webcast begins at 7:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT), about 5 minutes before the start of Mercury’s transit, and it will end at about 5 minutes after the transit ends 1:10 p.m. EST (1810 GMT).