South Plains Astronomy Club
Transit of Mercury Viewing Event
Monday, November 11, 2019


What is a "transit of Mercury"? The orbit of the planet Mercury lies between the Earth and the Sun. A "transit of Mercury" is when we on Earth see the planet Mercury move across the face of the Sun. An example is shown in the picture below, which shows the transit of Mercury that occurred on May 9th, 2016. The planet Mercury is tiny compared to the Sun, so it shows up as only a small black dot crossing the Sun. It usually takes several hours for Mercury to pass completely across the Sun.


Photograph courtesy of Elijah Mathews.
Use of this photograph complies with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

It takes Mercury only 88 days to orbit the Sun, while it takes the Earth 365 days to orbit the Sun. So, you might expect to see transits of Mercury occur several times each year. However, transits of Mercury are fairly rare. After the one this year, we won't see another until the year 2032. This is because the orbit of Mercury is tilted relative to the orbit of Earth. Most of the time when Mercury is between the Earth and the Sun, Mercury passes either above or below the face of the Sun. Only on rare occasions do the orbits of the two planets line up so that we see Mercury pass directly across the face of the Sun.

Such a transit of Mercury will occur during the morning hours of Monday, November 11, 2019. The South Plains Astronomy Club will hold an event that morning to allow the public to view the transit (weather permitting). We will set up some special telescopes on the west side of Wagner Park in Lubbock (see the map below). We'll start viewing the transit at around 9:30 AM and continue until 12:04 PM when the transit ends. The telescopes that we'll be using are specially designed to allow you to look at the Sun without damaging your eyes.


So, if it's not cloudy, come out to Wagner Park in Lubbock on Monday, November 11, and join with the South Plains Astronomy Club in observing this rare celestial event.

For questions or more information on the Transit of Mercury Viewing Event, contact the Club at SPAC@cat-star.org.


WARNING— Don't attempt to view the transit of Mercury using a regular telescope or binoculars— the damage to your eyes could be permanent! Don't look directly at the Sun without protection for your eyes (like eclipse glasses)— this could also severely damage your eyes!


 

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Questions or comments? Email SPAC@cat-star.org