Get your telescopes out – if you happen to have one – because Mercury is set to venture between the Earth and the Sun tomorrow in a rare astronomical event.
Luckily, astronomy fans are exactly the kind of people to own telescopes so hopefully every star-enthusiast will be able to witness the event, which is known as a Mercury Transit.
The exciting occasion only takes place about 13 times a century, when Mercury passes directly between Earth and the Sun. It’s set to occur tomorrow, November 11, so hopefully it will add a little bit more excitement to our Mondays and brighten up the start of the week.
See a time-lapse of the 2016 Mercury Transit here:
Okay, technically the planet will be travelling in front of the Sun, so if anything it would make our day darker. But as Mercury is only 1/283rd of the Sun’s apparent diameter I don’t think we have to worry about that.
The Mercury Transit is expected to be visible from most places on Earth, and in the UK it will begin at around 12.35pm (GMT).
Don’t worry if you’re not able to reach your telescope on your lunch break, though, because the event will continue until approximately 6.02pm, meaning you should be able to see the small black disk passing in front of the Sun at any time throughout the afternoon until then.
Unfortunately, due to Mercury’s small size in relation to the Sun, the planet won’t be visible to the naked eye – hence all the talk about telescopes.
A NASA blog recommends viewers use a telescope with at least 50x magnification in order to witness the event, though it’s important to use a solar filter when viewing the Transit as it will involve looking directly at the Sun – which you shouldn’t do, obviously.
The space agency pointed out the importance of protecting your eyes, saying:
Never look at the Sun directly or through a telescope without proper protection. It can lead to serious and permanent vision damage. Always use a safe Sun filter to protect your eyes!
Mitzi Adams, a solar scientist at NASA, expressed her excitement for the Mercury Transit and spoke about how the event could bring people together.
Viewing transits and eclipses provide opportunities to engage the public, to encourage one and all to experience the wonders of the universe and to appreciate how precisely science and mathematics can predict celestial events.
Of course, safely viewing the Sun is one of my favourite things to do.
The next Mercury Transit won’t happen until 2032, so don’t miss out!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.