On Monday, November 11, the planet Mercury will pass directly between Earth and the Sun in an event that won’t happen again for another thirteen years. During this transit, Mercury will be visible as a tiny pinprick of darkness against the Sun’s surface.
This transit will start at 7:35 AM ET and will last for about five and a half hours, giving people plenty of time to check in on the planet’s progress. Weather permitting, people in South America and eastern North America will have the best view of the entire transit, but other parts of the world, including western North America, Europe and Africa will be able to catch up on at least part of the action.
If you do want to enjoy the show, please remember that looking directly at the Sun is very dangerous. Also, unlike a solar eclipse, you probably won’t be able to see anything yourself without specialized equipment — and your leftover eclipse glasses don’t count. As NASA notes on a post about the transit: “even with solar viewing glasses, Mercury is too small to be easily seen with the unaided eye.” You’ll need a telescope or binoculars outfitted with a special solar filter to watch the transit as it happens.
If you don’t have a solar filter equipped telescope, or a local astronomy club or observatory nearby, you can still watch the fun. Slooh will have a live stream of the event starting around 7:30 AM ET. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory will also be tracking the event, and will be uploading images of the event as it happens.
This particular event is a big deal for astronomy enthusiasts. Mercury won’t make another transit until 2032, when it will be viewable in most of Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America. People in North America will have an even longer wait — the next Mercury transit visible there won’t happen until 2049.