Published: Mon, November 11, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Planet Mercury To Pass In Front Of Sun Today

Planet Mercury To Pass In Front Of Sun Today

Mercury is the planet closest to the sun in our solar system.

So you'll need the magnification of a telescope (minimum of 50x) with a solar filter to view the transit. Park entry fees apply.

Mercury's transit started at 12.35pm and it will reach the centre at about 3.19pm before finishing its journey at 6.04pm.

"Mercury transits happen about 13 times a century", according to NASA.

The entire 5 ½-hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern US and Canada, and all Central and South America.

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There's no harm in pulling out the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the USA two years ago, but it would take "exceptional vision" to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young.

This year's transit will be widely visible from most of Earth, including the Americas, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, and western Asia.

At about 9:20 a.m. CST, Mercury's center will be as close as it is going to get to the Sun's. The following one isn't until 2117. Researchers will utilize the travel to calibrate telescopes, particularly those in space that can't be balanced by hand, as per Young. This technique is one way planets circling other stars can be found. Scientists can measure brightness dips from these other stars (or from the Sun) to calculate sizes of planets, how far away the planets are from their stars, and even get hints of what they're made of.

'Transits are a visible demonstration of how the planets move around the sun, and everyone with access to the right equipment should take a look, ' Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement. "Though it takes Mercury only about 88 days to zip around the sun, its orbit is tilted, so it's relatively rare for the sun, Mercury and Earth to line up perfectly".

Mercury is about 63 million miles from the Earth, so it appears as a little black dot as it passes between us and the sun.

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