The rare transit of Mercury will take place on November 11, when the smallest planet in our solar system will pass directly between Earth and the Sun. The last time this happened was in 2016 and the next one would be in 2032. During the transit, which takes place in the afternoon in the UK, Mercury will appear as a dark silhouette disk set against the bright surface of the sun.
The transit begins at 1235 GMT, when the edge of Mercury appears to touch the edge of the Sun, and ends at 1804 GMT, when the edge of the silhouette of the planet appears to leave the Sun. Spectators in different places will see the transit, which takes up to 2 minutes before or after these times, since the planet will look a little different way through the sun.
On the morning of November 11, amateur astronomical societies of the United Kingdom and public observatories will hold events where members of the public can enjoy the transit as well as live on the live spectacle. The Royal Astronomical Society will support a (free) event run by the irregular Baker Street astronomers in Regens Park, central London, where members of the public can book places to come and view transit using appropriate equipment at no charge.
Professor Mike Cruise, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, wants people to experience transit on their own. "This is a rare event and we will have to wait 13 years until it happens again. Transits are a visible demonstration of how planets move around the sun, and anyone with access to the right equipment should look or go to an organized event if the weather is clear or alternatively follow one of the live broadcasts. However, I want to emphasize that people must follow safety tips – watching the sun without proper protection can seriously damage your eyes. "
The whole event is visible from the eastern United States and Canada, the southwestern tip of Greenland, most of the Caribbean, Central America, all of South America and part of West Africa. In Europe (including Great Britain), the Middle East and most of Africa will have the sun set before the end of the transit and so the last part of the event will not be visible.In most of the United States and Canada and New Zealand the transit will be in progress as the sun rises. and Southeast Asia and Australia will not m
Mercury completes every orbit around the sun every 88 days and crosses between the Earth and the sun every 116 days.While Mercury's orbit around the sun is tilted compared to the orbit of the earth around the sun, the planet usually seems to pass above or below our closest star. Transit can only take place when the Earth, Mercury and the Sun are exactly in one line in three dimensions.
There are 13 or 14 Mercury transits each century, so they are relatively rare events, though anyone can get in go over a large area of the earth's surface. The transit was first seen in 1631, two decades after the invention of the telescope, by the French astronomer Pierre Gassendi.
At any time, Mercury blocks no more than a tiny fraction of the sun's light. This means that the event should NOT be viewed with the naked eye. Looking at the sun without proper protection, either during transit or at any other time, can cause serious and lasting damage to the eyes.
The Popular Astronomy Society has an online guide for safe transit monitoring, for example, by projecting a solar image with binoculars or a telescope. Mercury is too small to be visible with transient projectors operating successfully in the solar eclipse in March 2015, and cannot be seen similar if using "eclipse glasses" with solar filters.
Observers with access to a moderate-sized telescope with a suitable safety filter should be able to see Mercury as a dark disk, comparable in size to a sunspot, but slightly darker. At the beginning and end of transit, when the limb of Mercury is near the edge of the sun, the effect of the "black drop" can also be seen, where a wide line appears that connects the planet to the sun's limb. This is thought to be the result of the quality of the telescope used and the turbulence in the earth's atmosphere (the so-called "sight") and in the past has compromised efforts to record transit times.
Because it is so close to the sun, Mercury is difficult to study in detail using telescopes on Earth. Two NASA space probes visited Mercury, Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975, and MESSENGER, which circumnavigated the planet from 2011 until deliberately landing in a crash in 2015. The European Space Agency's BepiColombo mission launched in 2017 and expects to explore the planet from 2024 onwards. The UK scientists make a significant contribution to this project.
Transit techniques are also used to study objects outside our solar system, and for example missions such as the NASA Kepler Space Telescope use it to confirm the presence of 2662 planets in orbit around other stars. The same technique will be used by the European Space Agency's PLATO mission, which is expected to launch in 2026.
The rare transit of Mercury takes place on 9 May
Royal Astronomical Society
The rare Mercury transit will take place on November 11 (2019, November 8)
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