Mercury on the Face of the Sun: 11/11/19

Image of Mercury in transit across the Sun in 2016, by Elijah Matthews via Wikipedia.com - flipped vertically to emphasize the silhouette of Mercury instead of the sunspot group also present.
Photo credit: Elijah Matthews via Wikipedia.com. Image has been flipped vertically.

On November 11, tiny planet Mercury will cross between Earth and the Sun. Observers fortunate enough to be beneath clear skies on the sunward side of the Earth when this happens can hope to view the celestial conjunction, officially known as a transit. Transits of Mercury occur about a dozen times per century. The most recent was in 2016, and after this one, it won’t happen again for 13 years!

Mercury is quite small, so eclipse glasses will probably not be sufficient to see it. Properly configured solar binoculars, or ideally a high magnification solar telescope, will be needed. Always use caution when observing the Sun!

Weather permitting, the Maryland Space Grant Observatory will train our telescopes to follow the transit from approximately 9:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m. EST. Check our Observatory page that day for confirmation, and pay us a visit if you can! With luck we’ll see something much like the image shown above.

For more information about the 11/11/2019 Mercury transit, check out this page from NASA JPL or this very detailed page at EclipseWise.com.