Mercury poised for rare ‘transit’ across sun’s face on Monday

May 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA: Stargazers will have a rare opportunity on Monday to witness Mercury fly directly across the face of the sun, a sight that unfolds once every 10 years or so, as Earth and its smaller neighboring planet come into perfect alignment.

The best vantage points to observe the celestial event, known to astronomers as a transit, are eastern North America, South America, Western Europe and Africa, assuming clouds are not obscuring the sun. In those regions, the entire transit will occur during daylight hours, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.

But Mercury is too small to see without high-powered binoculars or a telescope, and looking directly at the sun, even with sunglasses, could cause permanent eye damage.

Fortunately NASA and astronomy organizations are providing virtual ringside seats for the show by live-streaming images of the transit in its entirety and providing expert commentary.

The tiny planet, slightly larger than Earth’s moon, will start off as a small black dot on the edge of the sun at 7:12 a.m. Eastern (1112 GMT). Traveling 30 miles (48 km) a second, Mercury will take 7.5 hours to cross the face of the sun, which is about 864,300 miles (1.39 million km) in diameter, or about 109 times larger than Earth.

“Unlike sunspots, which have irregular shapes and grayish borders, Mercury’s silhouette will be black and precisely round,” Sky and Telescope said in a press release.

The event will come into view in the western United States after dawn, with the transit already in progress. The show will end at sunset in parts of Europe, Africa and most of Asia.

Scientists will take advantage of Mercury’s transit for a variety of science projects, including refining techniques to look for planets beyond the solar system.

“When a planet crosses in front of the sun, it causes the sun’s brightness to dim. Scientists can measure similar brightness dips from other stars to find planets orbiting them,” NASA said.

Mercury’s last transit was in 2006 and the planet will pass between the sun and Earth again in 2019. After that, the next opportunity to witness the event will not come until 2032.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent News

NSC to discuss misleading stat
Three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been in the limelight for months, but for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday, he was once again making the headlines, and this time for stirring a new c...
May 13, 2018 Read More
Imran Khan not our blue-eyed b
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Sunday shot down the claims of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif that PTI chairman Imran Khan is being meted out special treatment by the apex...
May 13, 2018 Read More
Nawaz’s remarks back Mod
KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman on Sunday slammed Nawaz Sharif for his recent remarks on the Mumbai attacks and said his statement backed Indian prime minister Modi's stance...
May 13, 2018 Read More
Indian govt biggest obstacle i
Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday stressed that the uncooperative attitude and stubbornness of the Indian government has been the biggest obstacle in the Mumbai terror attacks...
May 13, 2018 Read More
NSA stresses overcoming Pakist
National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua on Sunday said Pakistan desires world peace and has always contributed to global stability but faces a perception problem in international me...
May 13, 2018 Read More
PM, defence minister slam NAB
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wednesday lashed out at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for launching a probe against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif over alleged laundering of $4....
May 10, 2018 Read More
Imran promises new province as
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) lawmakers from South Punjab, who recently parted ways with the ruling party, joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday. The announce...
May 10, 2018 Read More
SC extends deadline to conclud
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Wednesday granted a one month extension to the Accountability Court (AC) of Islamabad to conclude references against former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his fa...
May 10, 2018 Read More