Science Geek Alert! Mercury Crosses the Sun

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This came from Launch Alert. Cool, cool stuff!


Astronomy Magazine news release

On November 8, the solar system’s innermost planet will pass in front
of the Sun’s disk for the last time in a decade.

WAUKESHA, WI — Next Wednesday afternoon, the planet Mercury will be
visible in silhouette as it slides across the Sun’s face. This event,
called a transit, lasts about 5 hours as Mercury passes Earth.

People with Internet access can watch the event from their computers
thanks to a few live webcasts (Clear skies permitting, of course).
For links to the webcasts, visit Astronomy magazine’s online media
kit for this event at

Advanced observers will watch the planetary shadow play with
telescopes and safe solar-viewing equipment and techniques. A properly
filtered telescope will provide the best view, because Mercury will
appear only 1/194 the size of the Sun. The planet will look like a
small, dark sunspot as it moves across the solar surface. Even a brief
glimpse of the Sun through a telescope can permanently damage vision,
so observers must use safe Sun-viewing techniques.

Mercury begins its journey across the Sun at 2:12 p.m. EST [11:12 a.m.
PST]. Astronomers call this moment “first contact.” Two minutes later,
Mercury’s entire disk appears against the Sun’s (second contact). For
the next 4 hours and 54 minutes, the black dot slowly crosses the
brilliant disk. At 7:08 p.m. EST [4:08 p.m. PST], Mercury reaches the
Sun’s edge, marking third contact. The transit ends (fourth contact) 2
minutes later.

Observers under clear skies across North America will be able to see
portions of the event before sunset, but the entire transit will be
visible for those near the West Coast.

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