On November 11, 2019, Mercury will make a rare transit in front of the Sun. With proper equipment, you can see the tiny planetary disc move across the face of the Sun!
So… What is Going On?
Ever so often, as Mercury moves along its orbit around the Sun, it is positioned in between the Sun and Earth. Sometimes, but not always, Mercury is perfectly aligned with Earth and the Sun, and thus we can see a transit.
Even though it’s technically eclipsing the Sun, because Mercury is so small and so far away from Earth, all we can see is a tiny dot move across the face of our Sun.
These events are rare, and you must be on the day side of Earth to see it.
The 11/11/2019 transit will be visible from North America, and it is better suited for the East Coast where the entire transit from start to finish will be visible. Those on the West Coast will see the transit in progress as the Sun rises, but will see all the way to the end when Mercury stops being visible in front of the Sun.
While on average these events can happen once or twice in a decade, the next time a Mercury transit will be visible from North America will be on May 7, 2049.
How do I Watch it?
Just like a partial solar eclipse, the transit will NOT be safe to view with the naked eye! Mercury will be way too small to see with the naked eye as it moves across the Sun, so your 2017 eclipse glasses will not be any help unless you have amazing vision.
You need at least a good pair of binoculars that are equipped with solar filters to get a good view of the transit!
Projection methods, especially those that make the Sun’s disc appear large will safely show the transit as well.
Mercury will appear as a tiny black dot, and if there are any sunspots visible, they may actually appear bigger than Mercury! While the view of the entire Sun is nice, you will need to zoom in to resolve Mercury into a circular disc with your eyes.
But I Don’t Have The Equipment!
Orion Bear Astronomy will have you covered!
A viewing party will be hosted in Riverside, CA from 7:00 am to 10:15 am. Location is still to be determined but there will be telescopes equipped with proper filters pointing towards the Sun just after it rises. All are welcome!
The event will also be broadcast directly from my telescope via Facebook Live, and will begin as soon as the Sun is unobstructed from trees and hills near the horizon. You can stay online with me for the entire three hours, or just have a glimpse and say hello! The live stream will also be used for a time lapse video.