On November 11, 2019, Mercury will transit the face of the sun from Earth’s vantage point. We’ll be able to watch it cross by our big, beautiful star for a few beautiful hours on Monday. It hasn’t happened since 2016 and we won’t be able to see it again until 2032.
Mercury is a speedy planet. It orbits our sun every 88 days. So, you’d think we’d see the hot little planet that could transit the face of the sun at least a couple of times a year, right? Wrong. Mercury’s orbit is tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit. So, we don’t often get to see it go by the disk of the sun.
It’ll take Mercury a little over 5 hours to transit the sun. Much of North America will be able to watch the transit starting at 7:36AM (ET). The eastern half of North America and all of South America will see the whole shebang, which will last until 1:04PM (ET). Africa, Europe, and western Asia can watch during sunset.
How do you look straight at the sun to watch Mercury go by? Well, I’ll tell you. If you have a telescope with the proper solar filter, you can view Mercury as a little black speck, traversing the sun, which will appear 194 times bigger than that speck.
I don’t have a telescope or a solar filter. Do you? No. So check out The Virtual Telescope Project online observing session. You could also use an astronomy app like SkySafari 6, Star Walk 2, or Stellarium Mobile to take a peek at your personal visibility for your location and learn what to expect. And, of course, NASA has got you covered.
Happy viewing, fellow space nerds!