Mercury is ready to transit through the sun on Monday morning for the last time by 2032. A pinch of darkness will punch a small hole in sunlight as the planet orbits the solar disk during a 5.5-hour stretch, starting at 7:35 a.m. Eastern time. Although you won't be able to see it without goggles and heavy-duty telescopes, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the show.
What is transit?
Remember the famous solar eclipse of August 21, 2017? You probably gave yourself a pair of ISO-certified polycarbonate glasses and stared at the sky. This is because the moon briefly blocks the sun. In a narrow path of totality, the day turned into night when the sunlight went out.
This time around there will be Mercury standing before the sun. Mercury is actually slightly larger than the moon – it has a diameter of about 874 miles. But Mercury is much farther from Earth. That's why she looks so tiny on Earth.
As such, although Mercury will pass before the sun, it will not be able to block much sunlight. This is what distinguishes transit from eclipse. During transit, the gripping body is not large enough to cover anything that moves in front of it.
Where will it be seen?
The transit will begin shortly after sunrise on the East Coast. By the time the sun rises on the West Bank, transit will be underway and Mercury will be approaching its deepest endeavor to the solar disk. The transit will end at 1:04 AM Eastern Time.
In Europe and West Asia, transit will occur at sunset. In most of South America and the eastern United States / Canada, the whole event will coincide with daylight, meaning that the sun will be visible throughout the event.
For the Pacific coast, this is a transit of sunset.
Australia, the Maritime Continent, Southeast Asia, much of China and Korea will miss the event altogether.
Will blackout glasses work?
] No. The little point you are looking for is just too small to see, even with eye protection. According to NASA, "Your best bet is a telescope with a certified solar filter, but other options include solar projection boxes and solar funnels."
You should never, under any circumstances, look directly into the sun without a proper Protection. Although it may be tempting in this case, since Mercury is so small compared to the sun, you should not combine glasses with dimming and binoculars. This can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the eyes.
How can I safely enjoy the show?
Live streaming of the event is probably your best bet. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is a cosmic tool looking at the sun, will capture images such as Mercury sunbursts. You can tune in to the live stream here. NASA and the European Space Agency will also provide updates from the Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO).
Several readers have asked about the production of breakthrough cameras, as they did about the eclipse. Unfortunately, this will not work in this case either, because of the relative size of the two sites. Instead, projections using shielded telescopes could work, according to Space.com.
When is the next one?
Mercury transits occur 13 times a century and the next is scheduled for November 13, 2032, although this will not be visible from US mercury transits typically occurring in May or November. This is mainly due to how the Earth is equated with the orbit of Mercury.
In 2004 and 2012, the Earth was treated with some pretty spectacular Venus transits. Our second planet from the sun, which is much larger and closer, appeared more noticeably on the solar disk. (Unfortunately, the next transit of Venus is until 2117.)