Join astronomers to watch Mercury Transit

Federico Mansilla
Noviembre 8, 2019

"While planets transit the Sun regularly, the orbits of the planets are slightly tilted, relative to each other, so things line up just right only occasionally", she said.

Astronomers say transits of Mercury are not as historically important as transits of Venus due to its very small, angular size compared to the diameter of the sun. Astronomers have been observing the celestial traverse for nearly four centuries now, but the first reliable observation, in 1631, was so different than what scientists of the time expected, it was almost thrown out. From its vantage point in space, SDO will be beaming back high-resolution, multi-wavelength views of the sun with Mercury's speck, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will be posting those views online.

Watch it streamed live from the Griffith Observatory here. The last transit of Mercury was in 2016.

If the heavens part in Seattle, there are ways to watch the transit happen in the sky. That can do serious eye damage.

If you have a solar scope or filter, take it along. Some of those viewing aids are custom-made with the filters, and you might be able to pick them up over the weekend at a well-equipped telescope or camera store if you're so inclined. But don't try looking at the sun through plain old binoculars or a telescope eyepiece, even if you're wearing the eclipse glasses.

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In the event of inclement weather or heavily overcast skies, the transit viewing will be cancelled. Check out NASA's instructions for making a pinhole camera. It begins at 7:35 a.m. EST.

That persistence would pay off in the long run and lead to some key corrections in our understanding of Mercury's orbit and the size of the planets.

According to the Delta College Planetarium, the next transit of Mercury won't be until 2032 and the next time Mercury passes this close to the center of the sun will not be until 2187.

It will take three minutes from the time Mercury just meets the edge of the disk of the sun until the entire small dot is in front of the sun's disk.

During its 2012 transit of the sun, larger and closer Venus was barely detectable by Young with his solar-viewing glasses.

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