Mercury transit visible from Greece on Monday

Our cosmic neighbor Mercury is the runt of the solar system; it's not much bigger than Earth's moon and is so hard to spot that it's known as "the elusive planet".

During the transit of Mercury, the planet will appear as a tiny dot on the Sun's surface.

The transit of Mercury on November 11, 2019, begins at 4:35 a.m. PST (7:35 a.m. EST), but it won't be visible to West Coast viewers until after sunrise. Asia and Australia will miss out. The Sun will rise with Mercury already about half way through its transit.

"Never look at the Sun directly or through a telescope without proper protection". The transit ends at 11:04 a.m., when Mercury finishes crossing the sun and disappears from view.

A Mercury transit, as it's called, occurs only 13 times in 100 years, according to NASA, and it won't be seen from North America again for another 30 years, or from anywhere until 2032. Earthlings get treated to just 13 or 14 Mercury transits a century. There's no harm in pulling out the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the US two years ago, but it would take "exceptional vision" to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young.

The smallest planet's eccentric orbit means it doesn't often pass in front of the Sun from Earth's vantage point.

"That's really close to the limit of what you can see", he said earlier this week. Though it may be tempting in this case, because mercury is so small in comparison to the sun, you should not combine eclipse glasses and binoculars. The last transit of Venus was in June of 2012, and the next will occur in December of 2117.

It starts on Monday at about 7.35am (8.35pm Singapore time) and will last almost six hours.

Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the sun at about 150,000 miles per hour.

The University of Minnesota's Bell Museum in the Twin Cities is planning a viewing event on Monday morning, if skies aren't cloudy. Advance registration is required; find more info here.

The San Juan College Planetarium will host a viewing from 9 to 11 the San Juan College courtyard between the planetarium and Little Theater, 4601 College Blvd., Farmington.

The last Mercury transit took place in 2016, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured unprecedented images of the event, at a higher resolution than ever before. Scientists discovered they could use that phenomenon to search for planets orbiting distant stars. When measuring the brightness of far-off stars, a slight recurring dip in the light curve (a graph of light intensity) could indicate an exoplanet orbiting and transiting its star. Witnessing a transit is all a matter of timing.

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